'Gothenburg is a perfect place for innovation'
A small device that might save money for the Swedish Maritime Administration, a way of using AI to identify bee species or an autonomous fleet of drones to make sea rescue safer. These are ideas all developed at Ericsson Garage in Gothenburg – a creative hub where employees can turn ideas into prototypes. Successful Garage projects can then take the next stop through incubation in the company’s global acceleration unit, Ericsson One.
Jonas Wilhelmsson is head of Innovation and Sustainability at Ericsson Gothenburg. A part of his job is to maintain one of Ericsson’s Garages, a local innovation hub where employees rapidly can take ideas from paper to prototypes. It is a pragmatic environment where Ericsson’s assets are explored and further developed to address a real problem – typically in collaboration with eco system partners. There are projects in different areas and industries, also outside Ericsson’s current core business. A key driver is the potential for ICT solutions to disrupt or make a difference.
"Ericsson Garage at Lindholmen is very active and committed. We are fortunate enough to operate in a dynamic environment with 24,000 engineers and more than 375 companies just around the corner and a diverse pool of talented and curious colleagues in the house. There is no shortage of ideas," Jonas Wilhelmsson says with a smile.
The ability to develop an idea from opportunity into a commercial offering is an exciting possibility for people working at Ericsson and a vital part for the company in general to stay competitive. Around 2,000 people work at Ericsson Gothenburg. It is a cross-section of the company where all the expertise at Ericsson comes together.
"It is a like an Ericsson in miniature. We work in a fantastic place of creativity where we are able to take advantage of all the knowledge and technology within Ericsson. Besides that, we have our own 5G-network, a high-tech test site and close access to all the collaboration areas in Lindholmen Science Park at our doorstep. It is a fantastic possibility," Jonas Wilhelmsson says.
One of the ideas developed at Ericsson Garage is a drone project initiated from the Swedish Sea Rescue Society, SSRS. One of many challenges has been to develop a system that enables one person to manage a whole fleet of autonomous drones over the mobile network, beyond visual line of sight. At the same time there has to be a way of receiving necessary flight permissions and stream moving pictures to the rescuing crew. It is a really complex task. But Ericsson and SSRS have found a way to make it work.
"We have demonstrated the solution, and we think the system is ready for commercial use."
Jonas Wilhelmsson shows a picture of all the challenges surrounding this project and explains that the technical possibilities at Ericsson – access to advanced test sites, competence in the office, an openness to innovation, the commitment and enthusiasm at SSRS and the collaboration areas in Lindholmen and Gothenburg are what made the project possible to pursue.
Ericsson Garage is meant to be a practical and creative place for innovation. A place where idea owners can spend time outside their normal responsibilities to focus on the innovation project. Should there be opportunities to commercialize and scale the idea globally, the moves to Ericsson One – Ericsson’s global incubation and acceleration unit. This happens to be Jonas Wilhelmsson’s responsibility as well, to qualify early stage ideas and projects for global markets at One. The drone solution is a good example.
"It’s truly amazing to see how we can combine fast-moving grass-root innovation with the resources of a global accelerator unit. Intrapreneurs get the chance to realize their dreams within Ericsson. I have the best job!"
Reflecting over how all this is made possible Jonas Wilhelmsson comments:
"When it comes to innovation, collaboration, openness and sustainability, Gothenburg is a perfect place. The city is big enough to be attractive to global companies, students and skilled professionals – yet small enough to create a good climate for innovation. People know people in different companies, in the city’s various departments, science parks and research facilities at the universities. There are co-working areas, areas where we can come together and use our different expertise to develop ideas. Ideas like the drone project that actually can help save peoples’ lives."