When you set up an innovation lab or R&D outpost, how do you ensure that it takes advantage of the engineering smarts of the core business? That’s one of the challenges faced by Piaggio Fast Forward, a small robotics-focused development lab in Boston. It is part of the Piaggio Group, headquartered in Pontedera, Italy and best-known for the scooters and motorcycles it produces under brand names like Vespa, Aprilia, and Moto Guzzi.
Jeffrey Schnapp, the CEO of Piaggio Fast Forward, says that rotating engineers from headquarters through his lab — and shipping his engineers and designers to Italy — has been a big help. It brings expertise from Italy in areas like manufacturing, and when engineers visit Boston, “they go back to the parent company and bring a little of the spirit, the virus, that we try to infect them with,” Schnapp says.
In that way, he explains “we build the culture out of the best of what each of the two organizations can offer — in the one case, a very lean, very lively, more flat structure at Piaggio Fast Forward — and on the other side, a company with very deep roots and expertise in light mobility that stretches back over a century.”