XEROX’s CENTER OF MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

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XEROX’s CENTER OF MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

 user 2006-05-16 at 11:35:00 am Views: 59
  • #15460

    Xerox’s centre of missed opportunities
    Xerox takes sharper strategy on research
    Founded
    in 1970 before the dawn of personal computing, Palo Alto Research
    Center (Parc) has a venerable role in the annals of Silicon Valley. A
    research centre of US copier maker Xerox, Parc is credited with
    inventing the mouse, Ethernet, the laser printer and other landmark
    technology.

    Those
    milestones are proudly chronicled on a wall exhibit within Parc’s
    offices in Palo Alto in the hills near Stanford University.Yet the
    exhibit, complete with timeline and mounted gadgets, also reflects a
    track record of missed business opportunities.Parc has been criticised
    for failing to commercialise its innovations, letting them flounder or
    fizzle. Much to Parc’s chagrin, others have gone on to create wildly
    successful businesses based on similar technology a few years later.The
    now extinct “ParcTab” predated the Palm Pilot by eight years. Apple
    Macintosh’s graphical user interface, which marked a sea change for
    personal computers, was heavily inspired by Parc’s innovations.
    Now
    Parc is trying to prove it can launch technology that can thrive
    outside its walls and not just hang decoratively on them.“In the past,
    creating new knowledge was enough,” said Mark Bernstein, president and
    director of Parc. “Now, it’s ‘How can my work matter to the
    business?’”Parc began overlaying a sharper business strategy on to
    research when Xerox spun off the centre as a wholly-owned subsidiary in
    2002.Now Parc is generating revenue by forming partnerships with
    corporate sponsors, government and research institutions, as well as
    incubating businesses and leveraging intellectual property.The move is
    part of Xerox’s larger push to expand beyond the boxes – printers and
    copiers – that its brand is synonymous with as it pushes into
    technology services.The corporate overhaul also applied to Parc, which
    has cast a wider net for innovative research. New partnerships includes
    a collaboration with biomedical centre Scripps Research Institute in
    San Diego to develop ways to identify cancer cells using laser scanning
    technology similar to that found in Xerox printers.This year Parc
    teamed up with with SolFocus, maker of low-cost solar energy systems.
    SolFocus is a start-up with just a handful of employees, but the
    alliance harnesses resources for research in the hot area of energy
    efficiency.Parc has cultivated government partnerships, such as a
    subcontract with US space agency NASA to develop robots for space
    exploration. It has also signed multi-year contracts with research
    sponsors such as Japanese IT company Fujitsu to develop “ubiquitous
    computing” sensors for use in retail, health care and transportation.
    Parc’s shift was spurred by Anne Mulcahy, who became chief executive of
    Xerox in 2001.Ms Mulcahy has pulled Xerox back from the brink of
    bankruptcy, slashed jobs and restructured operations to return Xerox to
    profitability. A revamp of Parc was part of the company’s turnround
    plan.Parc’s revenues from sponsor contracts were virtually non-existent
    a few years ago but now generate about $30m annually.Parc’s new
    partnerships offer a chance to innovate beyond Xerox’s traditional
    realm of office equipment, but ties to its parent remain firm.Although
    Xerox has aggressively cut costs as part of its turnaround, it spends
    about $940m annually on research, or about 6 per cent of total revenue,
    in several global development centres. More than $50m of Parc’s budget
    comes from Xerox.Parc contends that Xerox’s legacy of understanding how
    technology is used by customers differentiates it from academic
    research centres.Critics say that in the past, Parc spun off businesses
    prematurely without fully understanding the markets they entered.Now
    Parc is in discussions with venture capitalists about how to push
    projects forward. Sometimes “venturing is the most efficient way to get
    technology into the world”, says Mr Bernstein