Can Kroger turn Cincinnati into an alt-Silicon Valley?
The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, announced plans to open an innovation lab as part of the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) new 1819 Innovation Hub.
The nation’s largest supermarket operator will staff the lab with resources, including R&D engineers and software developers alongside UC faculty, to support its innovation efforts. Said Chris Hjelm, Kroger’s EVP and CIO, in a statement, “This innovative collaboration is driven by Restock Kroger and provides the Kroger Technology team another creative space to partner and develop solutions to redefine the grocery customer experience.”
Launched last year at Kroger’s annual analyst day, Restock Kroger is a wide-ranging initiative designed to improve customer service and personalization, revamp product assortments and leverage data-driven shelf optimization.
Kroger’s partnership with UC will also feature a student co-op and internship program. Mr. Hjelm said, “Our vision is to create a talent pipeline that supports our business and positions the region as a place for digital and technology students and professionals.”
Measuring 12,000-square-feet and including a micro-factory, collaborative work spaces and classrooms, the 1819 Innovation Hub opened last week and is designed to help faculty and students pursue innovation projects, enable nearby companies to tap the school’s research capabilities and better position the city of Cincinnati as a tech hub. With the high cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, other cities are being sought to develop and support tech communities.
Kroger will have a 2,500-square-foot laboratory on the third floor of the four-story building.
In late June, Kroger announced it would be opening its new digital headquarters in downtown Cincinnati with plans to increase its digital team of 500 employees to 1,000 by 2020. Kroger is also a partner with Cincinnati’s “Cincy is IT” initiative to attract top tech talent to the region. Recent moves to partner with online grocer Ocado and merge with Home Chef further support its digital ambitions.
- Kroger Technology Partners with the University of Cincinnati to Drive Innovation and Develop Talent – Kroger
- Kroger Outlines Plan to Redefine the Way America Eats and to Deliver Value for Customers & Shareholders – Kroger
- Kroger Continues Push to Make Cincinnati a Technology Hub – Progressive Grocer
- Kroger eyes homegrown tech talent – Supermarket News
- Kroger opens innovation lab at the University of Cincinnati – Food Dive
- Kroger Launches Innovation Center To Research And Test Grocery Offerings – Retail TouchPoints
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important is establishing a vibrant tech community in Cincinnati to Kroger’s future? Does partnering with universities make sense for other retailers for similar reasons?