An Annotated Map of 50 Corporate Innovation Hubs in Silicon Valley

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

Known for high-flying technology unicorns, world-class universities, and venture capital deals getting hashed out over cups of Blue Bottle Coffee, the San Francisco Bay Area is a haven for disruptive ideas. However, the the Bay Area has fostered innovation at least since Levi Strauss invented the first pair of riveted blue jeans in the 1870s.

Apart from tech companies like Google and Apple, the Bay Area is home to innovation centers and R&D labs run by household names based outside of California. Walmart, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, Target, and General Motors all run innovation outposts in the area. Accelerators like Y Combinator open their doors to corporates on demo days. Venture capital firms constantly fund the next wave of startups — and often invite in executives from the Fortune 500, hoping they’ll sign on as early customers.

Our list of 50 of the key sites for “big company” innovation in the Bay Area looks at the region though the lens of larger companies making significant investments in R&D, innovation, or corporate venture capital. We’ve also included some of the venture capital firms, accelerators, and incubators that have the most interaction with corporates.

Explore the complete map below by clicking on pins or clicking the icon to the left of the map’s title. The different colored pins correspond to the following innovation spaces: pink pins indicate innovation centers, orange pins represent venture capital firms, blue pins indicate accelerators or incubators, and green pins represent headquarters.

Want to check out some of these spaces for yourself? During our upcoming San Francisco Field Study, you’ll have the chance to go inside and hear from innovation executives at several of the companies on this map, including Rocketspace, Intel, Google, Airbnb and more! You can learn more and register here.

Innovation and R&D Centers

Embraer X’s current projects include electric-powered vertical take-off and landing concept aircraft, or eVTOL.

Amazon Lab126
Sunnyvale, CA
Amazon’s Bay Area research and development team, this lab has developed products including Kindle e-reader, FireTV stick, Amazon Echo, and Fire tablets.

Autodesk Technology Center at Pier 9
San Francisco, CA
A technology research and development center for the San Rafael-based software company, this space explores the future of manufacturing.

AXA Labs
San Francisco, CA
This Bay Area based innovation space for the French multinational insurance company AXA, is the US branch of AXA’s innovation arm. AXA Next covers partnerships, VC investment, acquisitions, and new ventures across the Insurtech space with a focus on Health, Mobility, Business Continuity, and the Platform Economy.

Bayer US Innovation Center
San Francisco, CA
A lab for one of the largest multi-national pharmaceutical companies, this center fosters collaboration between universities, research center, digital health companies, and venture capital firms.

Boeing HorizonX
Menlo Park, CA
This aerospace innovation lab funds and scouts disruptive startups.

Cisco CHILL
San Francisco, CA
Cisco’s CHILL team creates 48-hour innovation bootcamps that foster collaboration between large companies. Past CHILL actives have include partnerships with CitiBank, Intel, and GE.

Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center
Sunnyvale, CA
Comcast’s innovation center develops apps, AI, and cloud computing to improve the user experience.

Embraer X 
San Mateo, CA
The disruptive arm of the Brazilian aerospace and defense company, Embraer X works toward the future of mobility. Innovations include eVTOLs or flying vehicles that would operate like other ride sharing platforms.

FIS the Garage
San Francisco, CA
Created by financial services technology provider Fidelity National Information Services, this space tests and showcases new mobile banking apps.

Ford Greenfield Labs and Ford Research Center
Palo Alto, CA
One of the largest automotive teams in the area, Ford Greenfield Labs and the Ford Research Center include work in transportation and micro-mobility.

Gap, Inc.
San Francisco, CA
The apparel retailer, which also owns Banana Republic and Old Navy, has a new lab called Aro, which it calls a “Center of Excellence for Global Innovation + Performance.”

The Garage, Google
Mountainview, CA
A company that encourages employees to spend 20 percent of their time on innovation, the Garage gives employees the space to work on these projects. Features of the space include 3D printers, a CNC machine, and plenty of collaborative workspace.

Google X
Mountainview, CA
Google’s semi-secret research and development facility was founded in 2010. Google X has worked on projects including autonomous vehicles, drone delivery, and new forms of energy storage.

A look inside Gore’s Santa Clara Innovation Center. (Photo by Cayce Clifford for Innovation Leader.)

Gore Innovation Center
Santa Clara, CA
This manufacturing company’s space focuses on ideation and building prototypes of new ideas. The space also holds events to connect experts across industry verticals.

Honda Innovations
Mountainview, CA
Home to Honda’s Xcelerator and Development Studio, Honda Innovations experiments in new technology, autonomous vehicles, and connected applications.

Intel Labs
Santa Clara, CA
Intel Labs mission is to discover new technology to enable company growth, including high risk experiments. This team partners with universities and industry leaders while maintaining a close relationship with Intel’s business units.

Levi Strauss and Eureka Innovation Lab
San Francisco, CA
Referred to by Levi’s as its “denim atelier of the future,” the Eureka Innovation Lab has worked on projects like the Commuter Trucker jacket, which allows the wearer to control an Android smartphone by touching the sleeve.

Lucasfilm and ILMxLAB
San Francisco, CA
Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB builds hyper-reality experiences that allow users to walk along side their favorite Star Wars and Disney characters. Their team utilizes virtual reality, augmented reality, and new technology to innovate how fans experience stories.

Merck KGaA Innovation Hub 
Menlo Park, CA
Silicon Valley site of the German pharma company, which spends $10 billion annually on R&D.

Samsung Research America
Mountain View, CA
Founded in 1988, Samsung Research America researches emerging technology and supports the Korean company’s open innovation initiatives. Research areas include AI, digital health, and next-gen networks.

Sephora Innovation Lab
San Francisco, CA
Designed to reinvent the customer experience, Sephora’s Innovation Lab uses technology to reimagine both brick-and-mortar and online shopping.

Target Open House
San Francisco, CA
Open to the public, this space showcases connected and smart home products. Employees can then get customer feedback on their experiences using the technology.

Verizon Innovation Center
San Francisco, CA
One of two Verizon Innovation Centers in the US, this space explores the future of connected cities.

Visa One Market
San Francisco, CA
The card issuer’s innovation space prototypes new payment experiences.

Volkswagen Group of America, Electronics Research Lab
Belmont, CA
Past projects from this lab include integrating Alexa into Volkswagens, partnering with a fuel delivery app, and installing internal car cameras so drivers can safely see the back seat.

Walmart Innovation Lab
Sunnyvale, CA
One of two Bay Area locations run by the Arkansas mega-retailer, projects have included developing a crowdsourced delivery system and implementing new software development platforms.

Venture Capital

Bonny Simi, President of JetBlue Technology Ventures. (Photo by Timothy Archibald for Innovation Leader.)

500 Startsups
San Francisco, CA
With a presence in over 60 countries, 500 Startups has invested in more than 2,000 companies, including Twilio, Sendgrid, and Canva.

A3 Ventures
Berkeley, CA
A3 Ventures operates as the innovation and venture capital hub for AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah. Projects touch on the future of mobility, ride sharing, and autonomous vehicles.

Andreessen Horowitz
Menlo Park, CA
This venture capital firm has $2.7 billion under management, and has funded companies like Dollar Shave Club, Instagram, and Box. Regularly offers briefings to large companies interested in working with its startups.

Bolt
San Francisco, CA
Bolt invests $80 million dollars in idea stage, pre-seed, and seed stage funding. Bolt Build also provides capital and resources to build companies — like an in-house machine shop.

JetBlue Technology Ventures
San Carlos, CA
In three years, the JetBlue Technology Ventures team has put money into 20 startups that work on everything from localized weather prediction to AI assistants that can help customers manage their travel plans.

Toyota AI Ventures
Los Altos, CA
A venture capital arm of the Japanese automotive company, Toyota AI Ventures funds startups that work in autonomous mobility, robotics, and data analytics.

Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley
Palo Alto, CA
This accelerator and venture capital team provides funding to startups that work in automation and connectivity, IOT, autonomous vehicles, and micro-mobility (a/k/a vehicles smaller than cars).

Accelerators and Incubators

View of RocketSpace, the San Francisco-founded co-working space and accelerator program.

AngelPad
San Francisco, CA
Launched by 6 former Googlers, this accelerator provides mentorship, seed money, and networking through two 10-week courses a year. AngelPad was ranked the #1 U.S. Accelerators in MIT’s U.S. Seed Accelerator Rankings and accepts less than 1 percent of all applications it receives.

Enel Innovation Hub San Francisco
Berkeley, CA
Housed at University of California Berkeley and backed by Enel, one of the world’s top integrated electricity and gas operators, this accelerator works with universities, venture capitalists, and startups to explore new approaches to energy production and distribution.

Gate510
San Leandro, CA
Named the largest incubator in the area by the San Francisco Business Times, Gate510 encompasses over 574,000 square feet.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS, South San Francisco
South San Francisco, CA
Launched in 2015, J&J offers lab and office space (and sometimes venture capital funding) to early-stage companies in consumer healthcare, medical devices, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals.

MATTER
San Francisco, CA
One of two locations, MATTER focuses on media entrepreneurs and startups. Partners include The New York Times, the Associated Press, and Google’s News Initiative.

MBC Bio Labs
San Francisco, CA
This accelerator connects partners like Pfizer, JLABS, and GE with small life sciences companies making strides in their fields. MBC Bio Labs also provides startups with access to working space and equipment.

Plug and Play
Sunnyvale, CA
This incubator space and venture capital fund helps corporates like USAA, Nissan, and Kohl’s keep an eye on what’s happening in the startup sphere.

QB3 East Bay Innovation Center
Berkeley, CA
The innovation hub for the University of California system, QB3 has multiple locations that focus on advancement in the life sciences and bio-technology. QB3 acts as an accelerator and provides funding for seed-stage companies. QB3’s Berkeley location is the second largest life science cluster in Northern California.

Rocketspace
San Francisco, CA
This hared office space has at various times housed Uber, Spotify, and Zappos; runs a corporate innovation program that counts Nestlé, BP, and Eli Lilly as partners.

Y Combinator
San Francisco, CA
The startup accelerator that gave birth to Dropbox, Airbnb, and Instacart, among others.

Headquarters

Pixar’s lamp and ball sculptures sit on the lawn of the company’s headquarters in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Kaitlin Milliken for Innovation Leader.)

Adobe
San Jose, CA
Adobe was named one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies in the AI space this year. The company runs an employee idea-development initiative, Adobe Kickbox, that it has open-sourced so that it can be implemented by others.

Apple
Cupertino, CA
With about $11 billion per year invested into R&D, Apple continues to crank out the hits. Up next: new hardware for augmented reality, wireless charging, and autonomous vehicles?

Clorox
Oakland,CA
This year, Clorox has expanded their product offerings, including a new Burt’s Bees makeup line, more eco-friendly lighter fluid, and reusable Glad containers with interchangeable lids. Brands inside Clorox can also lay out “Innovent challenges” for employees to respond to.

Genentech
South San Francisco, CA
The biotech industry pioneer is now part of Roche Holding of Switzerland, which is one of the Top 10 global R&D spenders, at $11 billion. In 2018, it won FDA approval for Xofluza, the first and only oral medicine that treats the flu.

Netflix
Los Gatos, CA
The $11 billion company that continues to remake how we consume entertainment — on televisions, laptops, and mobile devices.

Pixar Animation Studios
Emeryville, CA
Pixar continues to pioneer computer-generated movies and the tools required to make them.

Tesla
Palo Alto, CA
With headquarters in Palo Alto and an enormous manufacturing facility in Fremont, Tesla continues to set the pace for other carmakers racing toward the electric and autonomous future.

 

ARTICLE SIDEBAR: UPCOMING EVENTS

Our Next In-Person Event:
ReportCover
Best Practices: Co-Creation & Ecosystem Development
Download PDF »
Podcast
Season 2, Episode 1: Inside the Mind of Clay Christensen
Listen »

Share this article:

See more articles about:

  • City & Regional Ecosystems
  • Comment on this article

  • Click here to join the discussion
  •