Digitisation, connectivity and social innovation

Research & development and innovative services

The Telecommunications sector has undergone a quick and major transformation in recent years, characterised by the decline in traditional voice services and the growth of fixed and mobile broadband and the new services enabled by it, thereby contributing towards the rapid digitisation of the life of consumers and business processes.

Innovation, both technological and business-based, is confirmed as the central element to respond to the change in the technological, market and competitive context. In line with this context, the Group has taken action in several ways:

  • reinforcing the lines of internal Innovation, focusing the activities of the labs and research groups on key aspects of the development of the fixed and mobile network moving towards the future 5G standards and ultrabroadband, and issues concerning service platforms and the new operations systems, also by means of agreements aimed at collaborating with universities of excellence, developing the Joint Open Labs (JOL) with some of the main Italian universities;
  • promoting innovation and the creativity of employees launching projects to crowdsource ideas with the Idea Sharing initiativeg1 ;
  • confirming the leaning towards “Open Innovation” principles in relations with the world of start-ups, new innovative entrepreneurship. Open Innovation, in fact, enables the innovation contributions generated within to be integrated with external sources of innovative ideas. Consequently, the flows of ideas coming from the ecosystem are flanked by activities of:
    • co-innovation, co-creation and generation of ideas and values by means of new partnership models with the most important global players;
    • catalysing of the innovation capacities of start-ups through the TIM #Wcap acceleration programme and investments in equity through TIM Venture;
    • simplification of the process of activating supplies made by innovative start-ups through the so-called “Albo Veloce” (Fast Supplier List), which enables the qualification on the list of suppliers of a start-up with a simplified, faster procedure, and “Basket Innovazione” (Innovation Basket), a budget dedicated to encouraging the purchase of solutions from the start-ups included on the Albo Veloce partially covering the costs.

Different innovative solutions and prototypes were transformed into business propositions and commercial opportunities for TIM, including CitySensing (a platform for managing large events in urban areas based on the collection of Big Data from social media and mobile networks), Cloud Robotics and Virgil (solutions involving drones and remote presence robots connected through the TIM 4G network), Internet of Things systems, including Smart Agriculture (developed with Olivetti).
In addition to contributing to developments within the Company, TIM produces a significant number of patents: in the 2015-2016 period it filed over 120 patents. In order to maximize their value, a spin-up model was recently developed, that is the launch of start-ups that have received assets and the rights to use patents in exchange for equity options.
These public-private partnerships have enabled the Group, in the last three years, to obtain over 5 million euros in European funds; moreover, TIM collaborates with the most important European and North American universities and centres of excellence. Again under the scope of the relationship with universities, in the last four years 133 PhDs have been financed, sponsoring first level masters’ degrees at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa (Management, Innovation and Engineering of Services and Digital Life & Smart Living) and Tor Vergata university (Big Data in business), and the TIM Chair in Market Innovation at Milan’s Bocconi University.

Moreover, activities to accelerate and invest in start-ups have continued. Since 2013, the TIM #Wcap start-ups have launched over 50 go-to-market activities within TIM, thanks to which turnover was generated. TIM #Wcap is indeed the business accelerator of the TIM Group that each year selects, finances and accelerates digital start-ups. From 2009 to date, more than 9,000 business ideas have been received and examined and approximately 300 projects have been selected and supported, to which 6.6 million euros were assigned to facilitate their development. The survival rate of the TIM #Wcap start-ups is over 90%.
Starting with TIM #Wcap, TIM débuted in venture capital in 2014 launching TIM Ventures, the Group company created with the aim of investing in the share capital of the most innovative start-ups in all the sectors of strategic interest for the Company. In just over two years of business, TIM Ventures has invested in 14 start-ups (12 of which came from TIM #WCap) and was mentioned as one of the most active Corporate Venture Capital investors at global level in 2015 by CB Insights.
Following on from the acceleration and investment activities carried out in recent years, in June 2016, TIM was ranked by Fondazione Nesta and Startup Europe Partnership in 7th place among the 25 European companies (it was the only Italian one) that “dialogue” best with start-ups.

In Italy, TIM employs approximately 1,200 resources in engineering, technological innovation and service activities. Investments in innovation and transformation amount to 1.9 billion euros, equating to around 52% of the total investments on the domestic market.

The relevant stakeholders for research and development are:

  • the areas of the company involved (e.g. marketing and purchasing);
  • the suppliers, for the joint development of solutions in accordance with the technical requirements of the TIM Group;
  • the traditional (e.g. car makers) and digital (e.g. e-Commerce players) partners, for the joint Go2market of digital services;
  • research centres and universities, for cooperation and joint projects; In 2016, 11 research contracts were formalized and came into effect, for a total value of 388,000 euros, exclusively with Turin Polytechnic, on topics such as IoT, smart mobility, privacy protection, new communication services and paradigms; the activities were carried out in the JOL;
  • the standardisation bodies and discussion groups at national and international level, which number over 30, and the international research and development bodies (including NGMN, Open Networking Forum, 3GPP, ETSI, IEC, CENELEC, TM Forum, BBF, ITU) in which TIM continues to actively participate;
  • the Ministries (Ministry for Economic Development and Ministry of Education, Universities and Research), the European Union and public authorities (e.g. CNR and local authorities) for projects funded through participation in competitive tenders, and partnership initiatives;
  • on-governmental organisations, associations, alliances and industry forums (e.g. GSMA, m-health) which bring together all the entities involved in the value chain of the specific market.

This model of managing innovation saw TIM, in 2016, receive the prestigious National Prize for Innovation, established by the Prime Minister’s Office and awarded by Confindustria, which sought to reward: the capacity to innovate its portfolio of solutions and services in terms of quality, the structured and efficient process of managing innovation, the company culture geared towards innovation and, finally, the capacity to efficiently transform innovation projects into services to support citizens, businesses and organizations.

1 Idea Sharing is a competition designed to produce ideas, the purpose being to discover the talent and creativity of the employees to “improve the customer experience of TIM services.” The competition ended in December 2016.