The One Brilliant Google Innovation Strategy You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
It’s no secret that Google is one of the most innovative companies on the planet. Besides pioneering and then dominating the search industry, it has also become a leader in developing futuristic technologies such as artificial intelligence, driverless cars and quantum computing. It has even launched a life science company.
What makes Google so successful is not one particular process, but how it integrates multiple strategies into a seamless whole. For example, Google Brain started out as a 20% time project, then migrated out to its “X” Division to accelerate development and finally came back to the mothership, where it now collaborates closely with engineering teams to build new products.
Yet perhaps its most important strategy, in fact the one that makes much of the rest possible, is how it partners with top scientists in the academic world. This is no “quick hit,” but a well thought out, long-term game plan designed to establish deep relationships based on cutting edge science and embed that knowledge deeply into just about everything Google does.
Building Deep Relationships to the Academic Community
“We design a variety programs that widen and deepen our relationships with academic scientists,” Maggie Johnson, who heads up University Relations at Google, told me. In fact, there are three distinct ways that Google engages directly with scientists beyond the typical research partnerships with universities.
The first is its Faculty Research Awards program, which are small one-year grants, usually to graduate students or postdocs whose work may be of interest to Google. These are unrestricted gifts, although recipients are highly encouraged to publish their work publicly, that allow the company to develop relationships with young talent at the beginning of their careers.
While anybody can apply for a Faculty Research Award, Focused Research Awards are only available by invitation. Typically, these are awarded to more senior researchers that Google has already had some contact with and last two to three years. However, they are also unrestricted grants that researchers can use as they see fit.