Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

All hail the true innovators – on the frontlines for new technology with Cisco CREATE

May 26, 2015

‘Innovation’ is a word that is often bounded about in the world of business and technology, so much so that it can feel like it’s lost a lot of its value.

Why? People have lost sense in what innovation truly means – it’s much more than just coming up with some wacky ideas in a brain storm. Innovation is about enacting change, by un-turning the stones you wouldn’t normally un-turn.

Innovation is not just about ideas – it’s also about processes. This ethos is embedded into Cisco’s Internet of Everything (IoE) Innovation Centre CREATE, nestled in the beating heart of East London.

Cisco CREATE, or Collaborative Research and Emerging Technologies if you want to use its full name, is an industrial research environment which has been running for more than three years.

The small team is the tip of the spear when it comes to cutting edge technology developments and to find out more, we caught up with Innovation Programme Manager Dr Maria Slowinska.

She said: “CREATE is all about real-life proof of concept, and showing that something can work on a small scale in a real deployment.”

“A lot of companies innovate from the top down – usually from only one or two really forward-thinking execs.”

“This means you end up coming up with solutions, but not necessarily answering the right problems for the customer.”


The team of Cisco CREATE engineers with their Scrum Master, Cisco Leading Engineer, Cisco Inventor and Father of Cisco EnergyWise, John Parello. (L-R) Andre Braga; John Parello; Francesco Lettieri; Julian Szafraniec; and Guilherme Neves

CREATE is hard-wired into Cisco’s teams of engineers and sales people in the field. This means they are able to speak directly to the market about any pain points and new opportunities. And because of its base at Hackney College in East London, it also gives easy access to the vibrant start-up scene in London, as well as Cisco’s partner networks.

“We innovate from the ground up,” said Dr Maria. “This is the opposite way of doing things and means we sometimes have to work against the grain.”

“This is a different model for innovation. We’re close to the customer, more agile, and it allows us to try different things.”

Many of the projects are funded externally, and the team applies for competitive research grants from external organisations such as Innovate UK. This allows CREATE to operate with a necessary degree of autonomy from the rest of Cisco.

For the team, it’s all about looking at either how we can change technology, or change a business model currently being used. This is in order to deliver new, future proof solutions to our customers and partners.

And on top of that, if something fails to meet up to expectations in the lab, it doesn’t get marked down as a failure.


“This is true innovation. Even if we engage in a project and find out that it won’t deliver what we would like it to – that is still a good result for us. If a concept is ruled out, we still consider this a success because it frees up resources to work on something that is more worthwhile.”

That really struck a chord with me, as it’s important to remember the work the team does is not just about results, but also about the overall process of innovation – rather than straight up product development.

Two of the main projects currently being worked on include Light as a Service (LaaS) and Stations as a Service (StaaS), and both are strong examples of how Cisco is placed at the heart of the Internet of Everything.

The team are working on developing technology that will allow businesses to use 70% less lighting energy in the long-run. This is all because they’ve worked out you can save electricity and even make people feel warmer by connecting office lights to the network, and allowing them to be controlled remotely or be influenced by environmental factors and various sensors. It’s clever stuff!

Although Dr Maria has to remain pretty tight lipped on the detail, both projects sound incredibly exciting and more news is expected to come out of the centre in the coming months. All will be unveiled on the Cisco blog in the coming months.

If you’re hungry for more real innovation in the mean-time, check out this video which gives an intro to the CREATE team in London.

Leave a comment


  1. are they good on open innovation and co-production with beginner designers just starting out?

    • Hi Susan,

      They are very hot on open innovation, with regards to working with new designers that’s probably a question for them! They have a contact page which lists an email address here –

      Many thanks,