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EmTech: Has Xerox Learned How to Bring Its Research to Market?

The company’s CTO Sophie Vandebroek speaks about her company’s efforts to commercialize its innovations.
October 25, 2012

Beyond its printer and copier legacy, many people think of Xerox as the company that created the graphical user interface but lost its chance to popularize.

At MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference today, Xerox chief technology officer Sophie Vandebroek addressed the issue of commercializing technology in a response to a question from an audience member.

Vandebroek, who runs Xerox’s research labs around the world, said that if you hire smart people, the process of invention is usual easy; it’s commercializing technology that is difficult.

In order to improve on this process, she said Xerox has chief innovation officers in each of its business lines who are responsible for pulling innovations out of the labs. She also said that two-thirds of the budget for Xerox’s research labs comes from the company’s business groups, which acts as an incentivizing force.

Of course, it’s not possible to turn every tech advance into a revenue source. “If you have creative people and you give them the freedom, they’ll come up with many more ideas than any company can commercialize by itself,” she said.

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