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BT Infinity Lab

Bringing brilliant ideas to life

BT has long recognised that the biggest and brightest of ideas can often come from relatively small beginnings.

We’ve seen how these concepts, once developed and refined, can go on to help transform the way people work or live their lives.

And that’s why, along with our partner TechHub, we have established the BT Infinity Lab programme.

It’s a shining star of our open innovation philosophy, providing a front door for BT’s engagement with entrepreneurs and the start-up community - across the UK and beyond.

Unleashing innovation

The programme enables BT to unleash the creativity and energy of the start-up community in a structured and highly-potent fashion.

It formalises our approach to identifying and amplifying the inventive ideas generated by free-thinking entrepreneurs.

We then use the power of collaboration to take those bright ideas to unexpected and exciting places.

BT Infinity Lab in action

The programme involves BT running a series of competitions and events.

Competitions

For Infinity Lab competitions we invite start-ups and entrepreneurs to submit their ideas around a core business theme.

Shortlisted finalists are invited to pitch to a panel of BT and industry experts. One or more winners will then have the opportunity to work with BT for six months to further develop and test their product.

Innovation in action

BT brings together three or four start-ups or small businesses we are already familiar with - for example, through the Infinity Lab competitions or our global scouting programme - for some focused hot-housing.

How start-ups benefit

Winning a BT Infinity Lab competition, brings hugely significant benefits for any start-up.

For example, winners receive:

  • Six months of monitoring and support from BT in areas such as technology, product, legal and marketing to develop technical and commercial strategy.
  • A six-month residential or flexible membership to TechHubs’s global entrepreneur community and events.
  • The opportunity to showcase their products/services in BT’s dedicated Infinity Lab space in London, and at our Innovation Centre at Adastral Park. This facility is visited by more than 200 CXOs of FTSE leading companies every year.
  • Access to BT’s marketing reach to develop and test products and services with BT’s customer base.  

How BT and its customer benefit

The Infinity Lab programme represents a major segment of BT’s innovation strategy. It’s designed to bring new and exciting capabilities in to the company which give BT the opportunity to provide an even better service for our customers.

Thanks to this programme, BT has been able to find and develop some fantastic new technologies, services and apps which have helped to augment our products and services portfolio and deliver some substantial operational efficiency improvements.

All of these are passed on to our customers - whether directly or indirectly.

BT Infinity Lab – The story so far

BT got together with partner TechHub to set up the BT Infinity Lab in 2013.

Tech Hub is one of the leading independent co-working spaces in London. It’s also a big player in Tech City UK – the epicentre of London’s vibrant digital, creative and technology start-up community.

TechHub also has locations in the Google Campus, in Shoreditch as well as international hubs in Bangalore, Boston, Bucharest, Riga, Madrid and Swansea.

Case study

Seenit

In January 2016, BT Sport ran an Infinity Lab competition to identify new production technology that would benefit the fans and viewers.

Video collaboration platform, Seenit won the competition. This gave the start-up an opportunity to work closely with the Infinity Lab to trial and test their products with BT Sport.

Seenit’s vlogging solution allows BT Sport to turn football fans with smartphones into a film crew and pundits. Whether the fans are at the match or watching at home, they can use the Seenit App on their phone to record their point of view and send it through to the production office for broadcast.

Refined solution

Seenit, the Infinity Lab and BT Sport began working together soon after the competition. The team from Seenit looked at how it could create the optimum platform solution for BT Sport programming while the Infinity Lab ran trials of the app at Moto GP events and European Rugby Union matches over the summer.

The finessing was successful and Seenit was integrated into BT Sport’s Premier League Tonight show in time for the new season. It was also introduced to The Score.

Will Pryke, head of BT Infinity Lab, said: “Seenit is a clever piece of technology that has allowed BT Sport to bring fans to the heart of sport and inject something fun, innovative and different to traditional sports broadcasting. It’s also created a strong, passionate and highly-engaged community.

BT Infinity Lab: a roll-call of innovation-boosting events

 

 

 

 

 Will Pryke head of the BT Infinity Lab

Fresh new ideas

Will Pryke is head of the BT Infinity Lab. Here, he explains makes it different and popular.

So, Will, have start-ups and their ideas always been an important part of BT’s innovation strategy?

Absolutely. At BT we are proud of our rich history of engaging with start-ups and encouraging open innovation. It’s helped us to evolve into the innovation-led business we are today. The Infinity Lab programme is helping us to build on that legacy – and in a very dynamic way.

I’ve heard you describe it as a ‘front door’ for engagement. What does that mean?

We found that many entrepreneurs didn’t know where to start if they wanted to share and discuss their ideas with us. This programme makes it easy to find us and begin the conversation.

How does the Infinity Lab programme differ say the global scouting programme which also engages with the people behind great ideas?

We’re all part of the same family but the scouting team is a highly successful unit that reaches out around the world and then brings back new ideas to fit into the business. We, on the other hand, start off with a business activity or specific business requirement and then look to attract ideas or solutions geared to a purpose.

What makes this scheme different to those run by other large companies?

The BT Infinity Lab scheme is purely about partnership, collaboration and opening doors. We give them expertise and credibility that they’d find hard to match. We are not looking for equity and we’re not here to provide funding.

Why do you think so many start-ups have been attracted to the programme?

I think they value working with BT and they thrive on our structured approach to technology evaluation. We help them with everything from use case definition through to trials and proposition development.

And you’ve seen plenty of benefits to BT and its customers since the Infinity Lab started?

Definitely. We’ve been consistently inspired, and we’ve learned a great deal – even through some start-ups where it didn’t quite work out for either party. Even though it’s difficult to discuss some of the collaborations in detail because of commercial sensitivities, teaming up with companies like Seenit has been a breath of fresh air.