Samsung Enabling Open Innovation Culture Among Employees Globally Through its C-Lab Program

Smartphone and consumer electronics major Samsung is promoting a strong culture of innovation among its employees globally, including in India, through its C-Lab (Creative Lab) program. C-Lab is an in-house ideas incubation program that enables employees to develop their creative ideas into meaningful offerings while staying within the company.

C-Lab aims to cultivate a creative culture at Samsung that inspires employees to freely propose innovative ideas and solutions that respond to the world’s challenges. Employees whose ideas get selected through C-Lab program work as a startup within Samsung for one year, separately from the normal work environment. C-Lab members have the flexibility to decide their own working hours and days. They can also set their own rules and hire additional members.

Twice every year, employees can pitch their ideas through an internal system that go through online voting and are reviewed by experts. The final idea pitches happen in front of 100 employees, an evaluation group and 10 executives of Samsung.

“Our vision for C-Lab is to expand the creative culture within the company by discovering and implementing innovative ideas. We are striving towards hybrid innovation, which combines the know-how of a large corporation and the spirit of the challenge of a small venture company to spread everywhere in Samsung,” said Mark Sohn of the Creativity and Innovation Center, Samsung Electronics.

The selected teams work on prototyping their ideas and market testing them in the one-year time when they work with Samsung as a startup. These teams get multiple opportunities to show their progress and receive feedback. One opportunity is the C-Lab fair held every November. Another is an opportunity to get feedback from external customers by showcasing prototypes at global exhibitions such as CES, MWC and South by Southwest.

Starting 2015, Samsung introduced the spin-off program for C-Lab projects. Those projects that were not closely related to Samsung’s business and had not been transferred to an in-house division, were spun-off.

An example of the success of the C-Lab program is a company founded by Pankaj Agarwal, who joined Samsung in South Korea in 2004. Today, his startup TagHive, a C-Lab spin-off, offers AI-powered smart school solutions to connect students, teachers and parents for a better feedback loop for all. TagHive’s ‘Class Saathi’, a clicker-based classroom response system, is helping reduce student dropouts in Indian government schools. TagHive is currently working closely with Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha state governments to deploy Class Saathi.

In the last 10 years since C-Lab started, over 1,507 employees have participated in 365 C-Lab projects globally. Many innovations have sprung from C-Lab over the years that are now part of Samsung – like Galaxy Upcycling, Eco-packaging, Lifestyle TV ‘The Sero’, and new features for mobile cameras and Samsung Pay. The program has enabled 59 startups.

In 2018, Samsung also introduced the C-Lab Outside program to vitalize the startup ecosystem and promote job creation, helping startups to grow their business through financial aid, mentoring, consultation, business cooperation and infrastructural support.