Inside Accenture’s first Canadian innovation hub

How the new "co-innovation" space will work with the consultancy's other offerings to bridge the adoption gap.
Accenture Opens Canada Innovation Hub in Toronto to Help Clients Reimagine Their Businesses for the Digital Economy

Accenture’s latest innovation space is one the consultancy hopes will bridge the gap between some of its clients big ideas and actually putting those ideas into practice.

Located in Toronto, the new Canada Innovation Hub is designed for clients to work side-by-side with teams from Accenture to co-create new product and services by coming up with ideas, rapidly prototyping them and then scaling them. It’s the tenth Innovation Hub the company has launched in North America, and the first hub in Canada will work with the others, as well as the hundreds of Accenture offices worldwide, to pull in outside insights when needed.

More than 300 designers, data scientists and other staff will be working in the hub, out of Accenture’s total staff of 5,000 in Canada. Iliana Oris Valiente, director of the Canadian Innovation Hub, notes that the skill sets are intentionally diverse, ranging from experts in facilitation design thinking and rapid prototyping to clinical psychologists.

“The idea is that we bring all of that forward to work with our clients, who come to us with either a business challenge they are experiencing, or a new opportunity they want to tap into,” Valiente says. “We apply some of our innovation methodologies to help uncover new insights and ultimately rapidly create new prototypes and scale them so we can get them out to market at a commercial scale.”

“The words co-innovation and co-creation are important to where we are right now,” adds Bill Morris, senior managing director and president of Accenture Canada. “This is not a show and tell innovation experience, the way some others are. We are bringing our clients in to our facility and work together first to ‘co-innovate,’ which is the brainstorming and creative side, and then ‘co-create,’ where we’re in our studios building and designing the products and the user and customer experience.”

The new Innovation Hub is one of a number of hubs, labs and studios within Accenture’s Canadian office, though each has a slightly different focus. Accenture Labs, for example, is a prototyping and R&D space, while Liquid Studio is meant to be a hands-on space for rapid development. The thing that ties all those offerings together, Morris says, is that they are all focused on co-creation; what sets the new Innovation Hub apart is that it begins with a “co-innovation,” before moving on to “co-creation” models that are most effective for the idea at hand.

“All of those assets are part of our innovation family, and the Innovation Hub stitches them all together,” Valiente adds. “We’re able to pull in the best of the firm to address any particular client opportunity or challenge that they may have at hand. We are the front door to innovation, both for our clients that come to us and for all of our projects internally.”

Morris says this kind of approach is vital to the innovation landscape in Canada at the moment, as it bridges the gap between idea and adoption. According to several recent studies – such as Accenture’s own recent AI report – the Canadian market is among the world leaders when it comes to the academic side of technology and its ethical implications, but lags when it comes to actually utilizing it.

“There’s lots of discovery going on, but not as much adoption as there needs to be for us to be competitive,” Morris says. “The studios provide the bridge from idea to adoption, and we are doing this in Toronto because our clients here are asking for it. It’s a perennial challenge in Canada, lagging in technology adoption, so we’re hoping that the hub enables Canadians in the corporate sector, at least, to close that gap.”