Oracle Industries Innovation Lab leader charts course to help spark new solutions

August 5, 2021 | 5 minute read
Rick Bell
Senior Content Marketing Manager
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Burcin Kaplanoglu is vice president, Oracle Industries Innovation Lab. A recognized industry technologist, innovator, thought leader, and keynote speaker, Kaplanoglu helped found, design and shepherd the lab initiative from its beginnings in 2018 as a modest simulated construction site to today’s gleaming three-story facility just outside of Chicago.

Under Kaplanoglu’s guidance, the lab has grown to serve several industries as an environment where Oracle, its customer and technology partners can co-innovate, working together to incubate, validate, and demonstrate new solutions. We sat down with Kaplanoglu to discuss the role Oracle customers play at the lab, Oracle’s work to build an integrated ecosystem of technology partners, and the lab’s future as an innovation hub.

What is the vision behind the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab?

When we first started thinking about this program a few years ago, there were two guiding principles. The first was that we needed to develop an ecosystem—comprising Oracle and technology partners—to work with customers across industries and help them solve problems to help their own customers.

The second was that the environment for this technology development needed to be credible and useful for our industry customers. So, we set out to create a physical environment that replicates their work environment.

Our initial focus was on construction, and our first facility was a simulated construction jobsite with embedded technologies where organizations could field test solutions. For example, with some construction technology, you need to know it will work in harsh weather conditions, but it’s hard to test new technology on active operations—it’s disruptive.

By testing and demonstrating tech in simulated worksite conditions, we can see how it really works—and build credibility and engagement with users.

When we came up with the idea for the lab, the first thing we did was to reach out to customers and partners to gather feedback. When they heard that Oracle planned to build a safe space where organizations can work with the ecosystem to fail fast, learn and improve, there was a great deal of excitement—and they supported us with their ideas.

So, when we opened in August 2018, they began participating in exercises to improve their workflows, which also helped us to refine the value the lab delivers.

It’s important to note that this is not an innovation theater. It isn’t an exhibit, and it's not a showcase.

We’re working collaboratively on solutions to solve industry problems. When you tell us that you care about, say, automated progress reporting on a construction project, we take you step by step and show you what we built today and explore how we can improve it.

There are steps 1, 2, and 3, and we discover that 3 didn't work. We go back to step 2 and figure out how to make 3 a success. We created a sandbox—in a near literal sense—to help our customers innovate and to explore, test, and validate technologies and then bring them the market.

For our construction customers, we initially predicted that the participation would be from operations, but many of our visitors are actually people who run projects. We’ve had customers who’ve said, “I have a project team, and I really want them to experience it.” They become believers that a particular technology is not smoke and mirrors.

We’ve taken that basic concept and extrapolated it across more industries such as utilities, communications, food and beverage, hospitality, etc., and more and more solutions, with Oracle’s cloud technology and industry applications at the center, consuming and leveraging the data.

How is Oracle building the ecosystem of technology partners that work at the lab?

Like our customers, our partners come from multiple industries—construction, utilities, communications, food and beverage, hospitality, etc. The lab has helped to improve our collaboration with these partners.

Before, when a partner would say, “I have this technology and it's going to complement what you have,” we had no place to test it.

We also discovered that there were common systemic problems across industries. Let me give you an example regarding employee safety monitoring and risk conditions.

When the pandemic hit, we deployed a new feature though a partner that scanned a jobsite and analyzed images to detect and tag safety hazards.

Providing access to the lab helps our partners to innovate, which ultimately improves their industries and the experience of their customers. By evaluating the pain points we can work to find solutions. We also work with partners and use customer feedback to enhance our own products.

As technology matures and more solutions hit the market, systems must be able to communicate and work with one another. That’s where partnerships at the lab come into play.

Partnering with industry leaders allows us to extend the reach and examine the value of a particular solution. We develop collaborative insights and build our intel in a way that’s relevant to the customer.

What’s next for the lab? Is there further expansion ahead?

We’re working on plans to expand the lab globally. When we started in 2018, we asked ourselves whether customers and partners would want to join our journey.

I’m happy to tell you that the response has exceeded all our expectations. We’ve had visitors from many places, including Australia, New Zealand, China, and Europe.

Through that success we’ve built our new three-story facility on the same location as the original construction site. We designed it to be a living, breathing, future-proof facility.

The lab is flexible enough so we can adapt based on what’s hot in the market at the time and evolve to help partners meet customers’ demands. That immediate feedback allows us to make the appropriate adjustments, then adjust to whatever they want to do inside the facility.

Among its many features, the lab includes a construction site; a smart apartment with a full kitchen, a washer and dryer; Tesla batteries, solar panels, and an EV charger. We've replicated the spaces where technology is used, which allows us to see how our customer’s customer—the end user—interacts with these technologies in real life.

And it’s tech that can be integrated. Our intent is to break down silos in the lab and create an environment where we work across multiple industries, because we can learn so much from one another.

We've been on this journey for almost three years now. I’m excited that we’re showing results. The lab is an idea that evolved into a commercially viable solution to solve so many issues. Innovation is a team sport, and it takes time. It doesn't happen in a vacuum; at its best, it happens through collaboration with customers.”

It’s exciting to see the original vision come to fruition—and continue to evolve.

“Innovation is a team sport, and it takes time. It doesn't happen in a vacuum; at its best, it happens through collaboration with customers.”

—Burcin Kaplanoglu, Vice President, Oracle Industries Innovation Lab

Learn more about the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab and how it can help you propel your organization to experiment, innovate, and lead your industry into the future.

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