Brunswick Corp.’s joint venture with the TechNexus Venture Collaborative will give the company new access to technologies such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and connected systems in the marine and fitness groups.
The venture collaborative, or “incubator,” curates, works with, develops and funds start-ups at the early stages of development, says David Foulkes, vice president and chief technology officer at Brunswick.
“That is something that companies like Brunswick would not be able to independently develop. We don’t really have the history, and our M&A is focused around larger acquisitions,” Foulkes told Trade Only Today. “So we’re forming a joint venture with TechNexus so we can invest in a reasonably large portfolio of early stage companies, using their process for identifying companies and filtering them and making sure they align with our innovation and technology strategy in the marine space and the fitness space.”
“They’re working with us to help guide us through this vast global network of early-stage startup companies, and the joint venture can make investments in the ones we think are going to be most relevant to our businesses — either now or in the future,” Foulkes said.
The company is making other investments in the tech space — it embedded an innovation lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign about five months ago that is focused on similar areas, Foulkes said.
Brunswick has also done work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology researching marine robotics.
Foulkes said these are examples of Brunswick trying to use new ways to access cutting-edge technology.
“I think the main thrust is kind of a recognition that across many industries, including ours, product leadership is changing from something focused mainly around hardware … and much more toward hardware augmented with services, programming and connected solutions,” Foulkes said.
“We need to recognize that. It doesn’t matter where you look — the hospice industry or industries like ours — we have to offer more than a set of hardware now. Services and programming and apps and connected capabilities and data analytics present a more holistic proposition to the customer, rather than a historical model.”