Digitisation demands innovation. How can SWITCH benefit from technological trends and drive innovations for the community forward at an early stage?
For the network division, SWITCH’s innovation management can be broken down into three degrees of innovation: incremental innovation, evolutionary innovation and revolutionary innovation. These degrees of innovation differ in terms of existing and new services, business areas, customer segments and markets.
How do we foster innovation in the network division, and what drives us? Incremental innovation relates to existing services, business areas and customer segments. It focuses on making improvements through efficiency-enhancing backbone processes – including operational projects that guarantee or even increase expansion, availability, stability and security.
Evolutionary innovation refers to new services and business areas for existing customers, but it also relates to the expansion of existing services and business areas for new customer segments. Here we’re talking about semi-disruptive innovation, such as the new tariff structure, new customer connections or the inclusion and management of researchers as a new customer segment.
Revolutionary innovation, meanwhile, is disruptive. It incorporates new services, business areas and customer segments and requires people to change their hearts and minds. Examples of this type of innovation include SCION, the transmission of high-precision time frequencies and even the virtualisation of networks through ‘softwareisation’.
The network team begins by initiating and processing innovations from the ‘development/operational environment’ in an evolutionary method. These innovations are collected in the ideas pool in the Network division. Any new, revolutionary trends and technologies with a five- to ten-year timeframe that could have an impact on our service portfolio are also recorded here. The processes in the ideas pool are kept simple. Each team member is free to contribute ideas and describe them following a standardised pattern. We also depend on reliable sources of information such as market leaders in the industry, analysts and experts from SWITCH and the education, research and innovation (ERI) community.
Evolutionary topics are developed into feasibility studies, projects or prototypes where possible. Revolutionary topics are further developed in working groups (WG) or special interest groups (SIG). Two examples: attendees at the SDN workshop entitled ‘From the business innovation and network revolution to the internet of the future’ observed trends and discussed approaches, while two specialist conferences on the IoT were held with the aim of developing a strategic approach to the IoT and building the community.
In other words, we’re using the WGs and SIGs to create platforms that promote innovation, which SWITCH uses to involve the ERI community and external partners in innovative activities and processes. Among the many future topics we’ll be dealing with machine-to-machine communication coupled with Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the further development of network virtualisation with ‘intent-based networking’.