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SAP's Co-Innovation Lab in Newtown Square offers collaborators a deal they can't refuse

SAP's new Co-Innovation Lab rewards tweakers of its software with products to call their own.

The SAP Co-Innovation Lab at SAP North American headquarters in Newtown Square.
The SAP Co-Innovation Lab at SAP North American headquarters in Newtown Square.Read moreJoe DiStefano

SAP is dangling an enticing offer for regional manufacturers and others who drop by, sign a deal, and sit for a spell with an expert SAP product team at its new Co-Innovation Lab in Newtown Square.

For this deal, you give this enterprise software-maker three months, six months, or a year to merge and fine-tune an SAP operations or analytics platform focused on your specific needs, and offer refinements.

These could involve running a gold mine in South Africa more efficiently or increasing production of a Fender Flea signature bass guitar. Or it could mean mining big data in New Jersey, as SCT Software in Shrewsbury, N.J.  has been doing with SAP.

And whatever new enhancements and intellectual property emerges from the brainstorming sessions, you get to keep and potentially patent.

"They walk out with a new product that they own, can then use themselves or offer to their customers," explained Sinan Tumer, senior director of the local Co-Innovation Lab, known as a "Coil."

As further enticement, the Co-Innovation Lab offers SAP's collaborators a dedicated space where they can showcase the new solutions to their clients. That's what Japanese giant Fujitsu is now offering at the Newtown Square site with a scale model of its sensor- and robot-rich automation strategies for manufacturing execution. The cloud software/Artificial Intelligence and Big Data processing company Inventy is doing something similar with its fine tunings  of SAP's data base crunching s/4 Hana platform.

"Two years ago, Inventy North America" — the  New York branch of a French company — "was just a start-up," said Tumer. Now after collaborations with SAP, "they're a company with real products" such as "Performer for SAP."

SAP is following Microsoft in Malvern and other big tech firms in setting up labs where its business partners can demo products and services that use company software for customers.

Spawned in Germany but globally spread, SAP has long played, by necessity, the role of product educator and expediter for its customers. That used to be more of  a one-way, show-and-tell relationship.

Now, hurried times and obsession with the "internet of things" home automation require more bi-directional give-and-take in the product learning and developing process  "with much more emphasis on growing the eco system," noted Tumer. "The nature of the innovation cycle has drastically escalated. We're living in a more competitive world. Customers can't wait months and years to get new solutions."

SAP's lab  SAP Co-Innovation Lab in Newtown Square is the 15th "Coil" set up globally and its second in the U.S; the other is in Palo Alto, Calif.

The company hit on Newtown Square "because its location puts us close to major Midwest and East Coast manufacturing facilities and data crunching centers," said SAP's media spokesman, Steve Collins.

The demo side of the lab is also fitted permanently with  new tools of the trade like "an industrial grade 3-D printer that works with SAP software to create very personalized offerings for customers with the potential for scale, for production in bulk, as opposed to the custom, bespoke 3-D products of old that took lots of time and expense to make."

While open to collaboration with start-up companies as well as established ventures, the Co-Innovation Lab development model "works much better with an SAP  customer who already has a product or service that needs refining," Tumer said.