Innovation is top of the agenda in boardrooms, as businesses grapple with the onset of a machine-first world and new technologies. At Tata Consultancy Services’ Innovation Forum in London, executives from the company’s research teams offered insights into their work and shared some of their learnings and best practices.

Some of the latest developments were showcased in the Innovation Forum’s PACE booth, while the speakers outlined their strategies for success, including ideation, rapid prototyping, running many iterations and scaling up.

“Innovating is hard,” said Anita Nanadikar, Global Head of Incubation, Corporate Research and Innovation at TCS. “What is even harder is innovating at pace. You need to have a certain ferocity because everybody is trying to do the same thing. And the one who moves fast and first will get the first advantage.”

Anita Nanadikar, Global Head of Incubation, Corporate Research and Innovation at TCS, addresses the audience

TCS is striving to make a “real world” impact and an academic impact, said Dr. Gautam Shroff, Vice President and Chief Scientist at TCS. The company benchmarks itself by working with an eminent set of advisers and academics from top universities.

New Frontiers

“Artificial Intelligence is impacting everything we’re doing,” he said. “We want to bring cutting-edge AI research.”

Vinay Kulkarni, Chief Scientist and Head, Software Systems & Services Research, Corporate Research and Innovation speaking at the TCS Innovation Forum

Vinay Kulkarni, Chief Scientist and Head, Software Systems & Services Research, Corporate Research and Innovation, gave an overview of his work using intelligent automation to imagine features. By creating a copy of a supply chain, or a digital twin, the researchers can virtually test different scenarios and come up with solutions.

“A digital twin is a virtual simulator board representation of a complex real system,” he said. “Through simulation it allows the overall behaviour of the complex system or systems to emerge and certain digital twins can be put into a variety of scenarios to enrich or interpret it.”

It’s easy to imagine uses for this technology in regulatory compliance, where changes and amendments can be hard to keep track of, he said.

Fresh Materials

Technology is also revolutionizing materials and the way they are developed, according to Dr. BP Gautham, Principal Scientist and Head, ICME Research & Innovation Programme, Corporate Research and Innovation. He outlined how materials are likely to change in the digital age and how this will lead to cost savings and better performance.

Following on from this, Dr. Tapas Chakravarty, Principal Scientist, Corporate Research and Innovation, told the audience how TCS’s research is advancing sensing technology and specifically helping older people who live alone to move safely. Quantum sensing is working to make sensors that are highly sensitive, affordable and zero power.

“Going forward, we and TCS are working to build monitoring systems completely unobtrusive and completely privacy preserving,” he said. “A network is formed to monitor physical activities, sleep monitoring, fall detection, as well as vital signs detection, without resorting to any complex installation procedure.”

Learning about innovation with TCS

Continuing the theme of sensing, Dr. Rajgopal Srinivasan, Chief Scientist and Head, Life Sciences Research, Corporate Research and Innovation, outlined how machine learning and understanding what’s going on inside the human body can help revolutionized medicine.

“Instead of continually asking what is wrong with me, we can ask, how well am I?” he said.Using a combination of genetic markers, microbiome indicators and other factors, a picture could be built of how healthy your cells are, he said.

Young at Heart

“We might actually be able to say, your heart is 50-years-old, but your kidneys are up to 70-years-old,” Dr. Srinivasan said. “It’s the kind of detailed picture we can build.”

Finally, Anita Nanadikar, VP and Global Head of Incubation, Corporate Research and Innovation, TCS gave an overview of the company’s initiative “Innovating at PACE.” She outlined how rapid prototyping and moving  fast has been a key feature of the strategy, and central to its success.

“Look at some of the data on start-ups,” she said. “90% of start-ups fail. Not for any other reason than that they are not innovating. Maybe they have not been able to sustain the innovation, and definitely they might be doing it at pace.”

Rapid Innovation

She outlined how TCS has set up a dedicated lab for innovation and how it benchmarks itself internally. Ideas are the key, and these are scaled up rapidly and tested.  

As an example of a rapid innovation, Robin Tommy, head of the TCS Incubation Lab, told delegates how his team had developed a solution to reduce or eliminate unwanted noises that happen in the background of a conference call, using algorithms that learn noise signatures and variations.

“Ideas come from everywhere,” Nanadikar told the audience. “Ideas come from all over the place they come from employees, stakeholders, partners. After that we basically try to scale it up rapidly with our partner ecosystem and the teams around us and then of course we try our best to sustain.”