NTT – where everyone has the opportunity to innovate with purpose

by Adam Skovron 

10 November 2020

A woman standing in the office

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Innovation can be a mythical thing. The ability to create something from nothing, a spark of inspiration with the potential to change the world. It motivates people to throw caution to the wind, creates new teams, unites companies and is even a rallying cry for capital and risk takers to reflect their confidence in an idea with their commitment in capital. Innovation can also be small breakthroughs that lead to radical changes in solving problems, running a process, delivering a service or simply working as a team.

NTT has an incredibly rich legacy of innovation that can be traced across our 150+ year heritage - and that innovative soul continues today. This commitment to ongoing innovation is reflected in the 5,000 R&D professionals, including 40 IEEE Fellows with 3 awarded IEEE milestones; more than 17,000 patents granted and over 1,300 technical papers published annually – all backed by USD 3.6bn USD average annual investment over the past five years. The 31 companies brought together to form NTT Ltd. have led their respective industries and markets with innovation at their core. And they continue that drive with an energizing entrepreneurial spirit. This foundation creates a fertile ground to foster innovation, attract talent of the future and is part of why I love working here.

Regardless of how radical, incremental, big or small innovation is, it’s a space I’ve always found inspiring. Looking at the world through a lens which believes it can be changed for the better has been at the core of just about every company I’ve worked for, team I’ve been a part of or start-up I’ve launched. NTT Ltd. is no different. It continues to give me the opportunity to innovate, and our culture is thriving as we experiment with different ways to leverage the strength of this global juggernaut, while providing people with the ability to contribute anywhere in the business.

Across the NTT Group we’re trying to find ways to improve life for everyone

Some organizations have departments dedicated to innovation and NTT Group has several incredible organizations with that mandate. These include NTT Venture Capital, NTT Disruption, NTT Research and Development, and NTT Research. Each have their own time horizon focus, approaches to stimulating innovation or applying capital (or both), and incredibly talented people.

NTT Venture Capital (NTTVC) is based in Silicon Valley and has raised USD 500 million for investments in startup companies. As a stage agnostic venture capital firm, the team assesses deals across any stage of maturity - from seed, through startup and early stage, to mezzanine and pre-IPO or exit. Its founder, Vab Goel is a 20-year industry veteran and together with the NTTVC team, connects investments with a rich network of founders, investors, industry experts, business leaders and others in the global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

NTT Disruption is small group of big thinkers, charged with creating disruptive ideas and ventures that lead to big changes for good. It’s led from San Francisco with practitioners based around the world. For Good provides a lens on any opportunity, a focus to drive positive outcomes for people and the planet with the right commercial results. It combines a core group of business and technology innovators, unique assets built or more often acquired to power disruption, a community of vendors and specialty partners, as well as NTT companies around the world.

NTT Research & Development delivers the strength, depth, breadth, and diversity of top tier university R&D teams from 5,500 NTT R&D professionals based in Japan. Leading thinkers and practitioners in Japan focus on challenges and opportunities in media, devices and robotics, artificial intelligence, network, security, data collection and analysis, basic research, and smart world powered by IOWN, a key research initiative for NTT R&D. NTT has filed over 16,000 patents based on the intellectual property developed through these projects.

NTT Research is based in Silicon Valley in order to attract the highest caliber researchers in cutting edge fields of cryptography and information security, physics and informatics (i.e. quantum physics meets brain science on optical platform) and medical and health informatics (i.e. bio digital twins). NTT researchers focus on deeply challenging problems, generally with longer time horizons, with their outcomes applied to NTT Group businesses, our partners or even licensed for application.

Digital twin technology offers potential for revolutionary medical breakthroughs

While NTT Ltd. has access to these four innovation engines, I’m most excited about how we democratize innovation across all of our 40,000 people. We want to inspire them to innovate in every corner of our business, driving our own digital transformation with a culture that both accepts a level of measured risk and expects experimentation. Outside of NTT, we have a focused drive to extend our approach and innovation investment to our clients, partners and other companies in the NTT family.

We’ve tied these two halves together under the Open-Innovation Framework, where our internal motions are driven by InnerSourcing – Innovation through Collaboration; and our external motions are driven by Co-Innovation – Innovation through Partnership.

Innovating in this way requires a portfolio of approaches that can be leveraged or combined to create the right legal framework, cultural and skill mix to deliver on a given project and our vision. These include:

  • design thinking workshops
  • internal and external Hackfests
  • skills accelerators to leverage just in time learning to apply to projects
  • comprehensive partnership agreements for investing jointly to develop early stage R&D into commercially applicable solutions

Selecting the right approach or collection given the specific challenge is key – as too is a willingness to pivot as new discoveries are found. Being able to contribute to and share in NTT’s heritage of innovation is a privilege.

Our next breakthrough is just around the corner. Stay tuned!

Adam Skovron 

Senior Vice President, Innovation Frameworks & IP Capture, NTT Ltd.