CleanTech Innovation Showcase Presenting Company Recap: Itron Idea Labs
By Grant Williamson
CleanTech Alliance Contributor
Angie Klee of the Itron Idea Lab discussed the organization’s model for solving problems innovatively to address customer challenges at the 2017 CleanTech Innovation Showcase. Itron is a technology and services company that focuses on solving problems in energy and water management. With $2 billion in revenue in 2016 and over 8000 customers, they are a global leader in this area.
Klee described the Itron Idea Labs as a small team—about 25 team members—within Itron that looks for new market opportunities. The company is made up of entrepreneurs and innovators that all have a startup background. They test out products and services in spaces that are new to Itron and work to understand these markets by listening to customers. The goal of the Ideas Lab is to bring new business opportunities worth $100 million or greater to Itron.
In pursuit of these ideas, the team is empowered to bring in both key team members from throughout Itron as Innovation Fellows and outside resources. The typical process starts with the team developing the business model for these ideas by working with customers. The team then prototypes the idea in the field and packages it up for Itron to bring to market. Klee drove home the value of the Ideas Lab team by indicating that they had gotten their ideas off the ground for as little as $50,000 to $100,000, representing a huge return on investment for a $100 million market.
Klee also discussed how the nature of the Idea Labs has allowed them to try out ideas like a Shark Tank pitch competition, where Itron employees with product and service ideas from across the company were coached on how to pitch and then presented in front of judges. From the five pitches, two were selected in the first competition and the people making the pitches have joined the Idea Labs team.
The Itron Idea Labs team was started in 2014 and already has transitioned three business ideas to the main body of Itron. The team has worked on developing power grid connectivity verification software, disaster prevention devices for gas lines, a mobile phone tool kit to collect data in the field and distributed energy resource monitoring devices. The ideas they work with are all strongly grounded in market analysis and driven by customer needs. The Itron Idea Labs team is ideally situated to provide energy and water management solutions.