25 Corporate Innovation Hubs in London: An Annotated Map

By Kaitlin Milliken, Staff Writer
With additional research by Caitlin Harper and Scott Kirsner

Even with clouds of economic uncertainty surrounding the UK’s plan to leave the European Union, London remains one of the world’s thriving financial centers. According to Reuters, $5.1 trillion of global currencies still pass through London daily.

Financial services companies, both in the UK and from around the globe, have taken note. The FinTech Innovation Lab runs a three-month-long accelerator program. Accenture, AXA, Citi, Goldman Sachs, and Santander are among corporate partners looking to discover and network with potential disruptors. At Barclays Rise, 40 carefully-curated startups work in close proximity to bank employees focused on emerging tech. In 2018, Citi announced its London Innovation Lab, a location that will house venture efforts and internal growth initiatives.

Outside of finance, companies are setting up new innovation centers and collaborations to develop solutions to thorny business challenges. The venerable British Broadcasting Corporation has a labs group, founded in 2012, that works on projects at the intersection of journalism, technology, and data. Retailer Tesco is exploring “convenience, immediacy and personalisation,” in the words of lab head Jo Hickson. And the London Cyber Innovation Center, a $17.46 million initiative, brings businesses, researchers, and investors together to develop technology in the cybersecurity space.

You can see 25 innovation hubs on the map below, including co-working spaces that have corporate involvement or sponsorship, as well as labs or investing outposts from large, multinational companies. (We’ll also be visiting London in June of 2019, for our first Field Study event in the UK. Learn more here.)

BAE Systems Innovation Lab
BAE Systems Innovation Lab develops new products and services on behalf of the world’s third-biggest defense contractor, with help from outside partners. The lab’s mission, according to the company, is “to secure and defend the connected world,” with a focus on trends like “mobility, automation, globalization and Internet of Things.”

Barclays Rise London / Barclays Accelerator
One of several locations around the world, Rise London is a fintech hub where 40 carefully curated startups can scale their business backed by Barclays’ network of mentors, investors, and businesspeople. Startups at Rise can also participate in training programs, workshops, and events. The company also runs a 13-week accelerator program in conjunction with Techstars. The site opened in 2017.

BBC Connected Studio
Connected Studio, part of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s R&D branch, creates digital pilots for the company. These pilots are then tested on the company’s audience-facing platform, BBC Taster. Connected Studio also encompasses BBC News Labs, a six-month-long incubator program that explores the intersection of journalism, technology, and data. Active projects include 360 video and ALTO, a voice-over tool that can translate video content into multiple languages.

BP
Innovation remains a priority across BP, an oil and gas company with more than $300 billion in revenue as of 2018. BP’s digital innovation organization scouts for new technologies and forges partnerships throughout the energy ecosystem — including with academic institutions and startups. The company’s venture arm has has invested $500 million across over 40 technologies in the past 10 years. Additionally, BP Launchpad experiments with disruptive technologies and new business models, with a goal of diversifying the company’s business. BP Launchpad explores “new sources of energy, new ways to use the energy more productively and efficiently, [and] new methods of reducing and containing greenhouse gases,” according to the company website.

Citi Group Innovation Lab
In 2018, Citi announced its London Innovation Lab. The location houses both technologists focused on software; the Europe, Middle East, and Africa operations of Citi’s venture capital arm, Citi Ventures; and Citi’s D10XSM Program, an internal growth initiative where Citi employees can take their ideas from concept to launch.

Deutsche Bank Labs
Deutsche Bank Labs in London pairs technology startups with teams inside the German bank, allowing the company to develop new offerings. The lab seeks to help the Deutsche Bank explore emerging technology and contribute to the firm’s overall digital strategy.

The FinTech Innovation Lab London
Designed without fees and with no equity taken, the FinTech Innovation Lab London, run by Accenture, gathers cohorts of startups for a three-month-long program full of mentoring, networking, and testing value propositions. Corporate partners of the program include AXA, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Santander, and Wells Fargo. New York and Hong Kong host other locations of The FinTech Innovation Lab.

Google
In 2017, Google broke ground on its $1.29 billion London headquarters in Kings Cross. The 870,000-square-foot campus will soon be able to house 7,000 employees. Additionally, Google has also tapped into London’s ecosystem to expand its tech capabilities: in 2014, the search giant acquired DeepMind, an AI startup, for $500 million.

HSBC Ventures
Formed in 2014, HSBC Ventures puts money into early-stage companies focused on data, artificial intelligence, security, and open banking. According to CBInsights, HSBC’s venture arm invests out of a $200 million fund.

Imperial College White City Incubator
The incubator at Imperial College’s White City campus is intended to provide a hospitable place for launching university spin-outs. It includes ten laboratories and 12 offices, in addition to standard meeting rooms and break-out areas. In this space, early-stage businesses can work alongside scientists and technology experts. The incubator also hosts a series of events, including investor showcases and development seminars. According to Imperial College London, the incubator is ran by Imperial Innovations plc, “Imperial’s technology commercialization partner, which has supported more than 60 science and technology-focused spinouts and start-up companies.”

ING Labs London
Built around cross-company collaboration, ING Labs London runs experiments and validates ideas with innovators at outside companies to address big financial services industry challenges. Participants run the gamut from start-ups to academic researchers to entrepreneurs to other corporates. Focus areas include global trade, real estate, and simplifying the home-owner experience, according to the ING Labs website.

J&J Innovation Center
One of four global innovation centers, J&J offers lab and office space (and sometimes venture capital funding) to early-stage companies in consumer healthcare, medical devices, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals.

John Lewis & Partners’ JLabs
In 2018, John Lewis & Partners expanded its JLabs accelerator from a single, 12-week-long program annually to supporting three 12-week-long cohorts of startups year-round. During the program, the retail company provides mentorship to selected startups, and the most promising ideas are tested within the business. Past successes include CupClub, a returnable drinks cup service created to reduce the use of disposable drinking cups, and rolling out a supper club series with WeFiFo, a startup that aims to be an “Airbnb for the kitchen table.” The latest cycle of the JLabs program concentrated on experiential retail.

Lloyd’s Lab
An accelerator program for the 330-year-old company Lloyd’s of London, Lloyd’s lab spends ten weeks working with participating startups to shape innovations in the insurance space. During the program, participants get access to both co-working space and mentorship from Lloyd’s team. Participating companies have included a video streaming platform to streamline insurance inspections and an app to collect information and speed up claims.

London BioScience Innovation Center
LBIC provides laboratory and office space “within one of the largest hubs of life science and biotechnology companies in the UK,” according to the center’s website. The facility currently houses over 50 life science companies.

London Cyber Innovation Center
This $17.46 million initiative brings businesses, researchers, and investors together to develop technology and grow startups in the cybersecurity space. Select startups partner with larger companies to identify and solve security challenges.

Makerversity
Makerversity aims to create the ideal space for professional makers, blending co-working spaces with the machinery and tools of a workshop. According to the company website, Makerversity seeks to “bring together people with all kinds of creative and technical expertise” so members can “play together and inspire each other.” The organization also hosts learning programs to inspire the next generation of makers.

Rocketspace London
This shared office space, founded in San Francisco, has a history of fostering unicorns like Uber, Spotify, and Zappos. Eighteen of Rocketspace’s alumni have attained valuations of greater than $1 billion. Rocketspace also engages over 125 corporate partners, including Nestlé, BP, and Eli Lilly as partners.

Rolls Royce Holdings
Rolls-Royce Holdings — the one that makes jet engines and nuclear reactors, not luxury cars — spent $1.45 billion on R&D in 2018. Projects include developing micro-grid technology to take better utilize renewable power sources, and electrically-powered aircraft engines. The company filed 892 patents approved for filing last year, according to a company press release.

Shell Ventures
With origins dating back to 1996, Shell Ventures today invests in startups, small businesses, and medium enterprises that develop new technologies in the energy space. Focus areas include: renewable energy, new fuel for transportation and freight, and technology for data analysis. According to the company website, “a typical initial investment is $2-5m, with a total of $15-20m over the lifecycle of investment.” Shell also has a Digital Ventures team in London. One project from this team run in conjunction with BCG Digital Ventures, Fare Pilot utilizes new machine learning and aims to create a safe ride sharing option. Data platforms and mobile apps leverage new technology to anticipate customer demand and find more riders for their professional drivers.

Tesco Labs
The R&D team at the multinational grocery retailer, Tesco Labs creates “new products, services or experiences that address customer and business needs through the use of emerging and established technologies,” according to the company. Projects include creating a frictionless ordering process with the Google Home connected speaker, and an app to track calorie intake and physical activity.

Thomson Reuters Labs
One of four global innovation labs, Thomson Reuters’ London Lab seeks to gain greater insights from data. Focus areas include data science & analytics, data visualization, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. Located on Canary Wharf, the lab also forges partnerships with startups and local universities.

UBS Innovation Lab
This lab run by the Swiss investment bank enables UBS teams to engage with London’s fintech community. Initiatives at the lab focus on blockchain and smart contract technologies.

UK Policy Lab
Created with the goal of making policy making more open and transparent, Policy Lab acts as a testing space and support system for policy teams across the UK’s government. According to the organization’s website, Policy Lab has engaged over 5,500 civil servants working on issue areas like policing, housing, health, and childcare. Projects range from “idea days” to longer-term initiatives that involve collaboration between civil servants, ethnographers, data scientists, and subject matter experts.

Visa London Innovation Lab
The largest of Visa’s innovation centers worldwide, Visa Innovation Center London focuses on designing the next generation of payments. Co-creation and design thinking are two components of the innovation philosophy at this location. Projects also focus on the connected car and the next generation of retail environments that would allow customers to make purchases through whatever device they prefer.

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