What will be the next blockbuster for Ericsson? Perhaps it starts in the company’s venture for innovation and intrapreneur Garage. In early October, Ericsson opened its fourth Garage in Sweden. An environment for concept development and experiments with new technology and a part of Ericsson’s work to create an attractive, innovative workplace open to new ways of working, building teams and innovating. Garage erases organizational challenges by being accessible to everyone.
The business operates on three legs. Employees should be able to use the resources available in the Garage for their own skills development, private labor, and internal innovation projects. Garage can also be used for customer demonstrations. A kind of internal demo hub to showcase what cool projects happen within Ericsson. In the future, Ericsson is also aiming to use Garage as a space for joint development projects together with different startups.
The Garage network grows rapidly within Ericsson. Globally, there are currently 13 garages, and at least another four are about to start.
Pontus Sandberg is the director of Garage on Ericsson’s Mjärdevi site. He talks about the importance of working with innovation in new ways.
“We need to think about how we work with innovation internally, but also how we invite external players like Startups to develop alongside Ericsson engineers,” says Pontus. It is primarily within 5G as new demands on our products entail this. We are seeing a major technological change in radio and telecommunications. When we built GSM, it was to connect people talking. Next generation, 3G, was a mix of speech and some data. With today’s standard, the amount of data was almost non-existent. LTE was our first mobile broadband. For the first time, we provided mobile broadband to all. It enabled the smartphone revolution. In the latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, we forecast 1 billion 5G subscriptions in 2023.
Pontus Sandberg believes that with the first generation mobile systems, the user case was easier to predict. Now Ericsson is developing the fifth generation system. The number of possible uses has increased exponentially. With industry, agriculture, smart homes, buses, VR, AR, medical technology, gaming, etc. It will be a lot more of everything.
“We see that we can’t possess all the skills of all applications when they can hardly be foreseen,” says Pontus. On the other hand, we are very good at communication. Then we want to work with startups that are good at various things: sensors, medical applications, etc. The complexity of the use of 5G is so much bigger that we have to work differently. We believe this will lead us to deliver the best 5G system, but also that we will learn to think differently about how we work with innovation. The business case is also different today. Previously, we have sold our systems to major operators. Now, our potential customers are brand new players. Tex construction company and property owner for integration in smart houses.
Garage starts a very early development phase. There, for example, there is a development of Proof of concepts that can then be taken over in Ericsson’s research and development.
“99 of 100 ideas may not matter, but then we have learned something,” said Pontus. We are not required to deliver finished products, but we measure the number of projects and activities we have.
“Dare to invest in time and believe in the creativity of employees, I think is the biggest challenge when dealing with such a business,” says Pontus. With Garage, we in Linköping can give a good example and be part of how Ericsson provides the opportunities for its employees in a modern way.