Freescale’s new incubator birthing hundreds of ideas

Sep 5, 2014
Austin American Statesman

After one year, a new incubator at Freescale Semiconductor has generated over 200 ideas from company engineers and company officials say that the first products from the lab could start rolling out by the end of this year

The incubator, called the Freescale Discovery Lab, was started in July of last year as a way for company employees to pursue high-risk ideas, said David Kramer, the lab’s director

Austin-based Freescale, which is a supplier of semiconductor chips for the automotive and digital network industries, employs about 5,000 people in Central Texas

The incubator is a way to “double down” on innovation, Kramer said, and to carve out research and development time for company employees with ideas

Last year, CEO Gregg Lowe asked Kramer to head up the incubator – almost immediately there were about 100 ideas from employees

Today the company has nine active projects that more than 20 employees are working on. They range from exploring alternative materials, to architecting new systems and software to creating cutting edge packaging technology

The lab has forged partnerships with a number of domestic and international universities, and a second lab will soon break ground in Toulouse, France

News of the lab comes at a time when Freescale is seeing sales growth in all its major product categories

In July, Freescale reported net earnings for the second quarter of $86 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $65 million, or 25 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2013

At the time, analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy said Freescale is “doing well on financial fundamentals.”

Toward the end of this year, the incubator will roll out its first two offerings – which will either succeed and become products (or licensed to other companies), or they’ll flop

Ultimately what Freescale is trying to do, Kramer said, is create a climate in which failure “is OK and a good thing.”

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