Telstra’s launch of the Gurrowa Innovation Lab poses a question to the industry: “What happens when you take the smartest talent, give them access to cutting edge technology and resources, and focus them to solve innovation challenges for our customers?”

This is a question that has been answered before. In the 1940s, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works designed and delivered the XP-80 in 143 days. In the 1970s, the homebrew computing club became ground zero for the Information Age when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak presented the Apple I. These historic communities all were driven by an ethic of open collaboration and open innovation. The technology of the digital age eliminates the remaining friction to openness, allowing Telstra’s new Gurrowa Innovation Lab in Melbourne, Australia, to access a global innovation network of universities, disruptive start ups and strategic partners.

There has been no other time in history where technology presents such raw ingredients for innovation. Advances in robotics, 3D printing, low-cost microcontrollers, and ubiquitous sensors are blanketing the real world in software. The global adoption of mobile connectivity, cloud computing and deep learning allows these breakthroughts to be combined in wonderful new experiences. The resources in Gurrowa will allow teams to build ideas in hardware and software, and deliver them through modern processes focussed on speed and iteration.

We have both our customers and innovation at the heart of the company. So we want to think big, solving customer challenges such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and designing intelligence into solutions through data analytics and deep learning. The starting point for this journey is the customer, what problems do they need solving? How can we improve farm productivity by pulling together drone technologies for aerial surveillance of farm land, data analytics for preventative maintenance of farm equipment, and genetic tracking of sheep to improve breeding outcomes? How can we improve the yield of municipal budgets by reducing energy consumption of street lamps and optimising garbage collection by tracking the weight of garbage bins?

These big ideas need new ways to deliver, and places in which to be born. That’s why we are opening the Gurrowa Innovation Lab – the latest addition to our innovation ecosystem. The lab is the centerpiece of our innovation and technology research capabilities, located in our Melbourne Headquarters. Gurrowa, which means Interchange in the Wurung language, signifies the interchanging of ideas that will take place in this unique co-creation space that will drive the new wave of innovation at Telstra.

To achieve this, we need to bring the best practices from across the world. We went all the way to Silicon Valley and found Pivotal. Today we are also announcing a joint venture with Pivotal which will enhance our software development capability. Telstra has also become a member of the Cloud Foundry Foundation so we can support software applications in a seamless fashion with a cloud native platform for the benefit of our customers who want to go digital with us.