ness process improvement—to an equally broad
realm of functions, processes and challenges.
Many centers have some element of localization.
Roughly half of the clients who visit EY’s New
York wavespace center come from the financial
services sector, and the firm is looking at top New
York universities as well as Silicon Alley start-ups
as potential partners to involve in the center.
As the trademarked names and branding activities surrounding innovation centers suggest,
marketing is another key objective. Accenture’s
2017 announcement that it would open 10 new
innovation hubs in the U.S. highlighted that
the firm’s “innovation investment in the U.S.”
would create 15,000 new high-skilled U.S. jobs.
ALM Intelligence Senior Director of Research Nathan Simon, who has visited innovation centers and examined their offerings and
origins, points out that a consulting firm’s size
does not necessarily determine whether or not
it can open an innovation center, but rather how
many they build.
Why Innovate Here
The specific factors driving firms to build
new physical spaces to interact with clients
vary, although the difficulties most companies
experience keeping pace with digital technology represents a common, overarching driver.
“There’s so much innovation happening so
quickly that it’s really hard to stay ahead of it,”
says Jonathan Kestenbaum, managing director
of Talent Tech Labs, a New York-based innovation hub that evaluates and promotes technological developments in emerging talent acquisition technology.
EY Americas Advisory Digital Transforma-
tion Wavespace Leader Woody Driggs, says
that his firm’s innovation hubs are designed to
help clients “continuously rethink and reimag-
ine business processes, business models, and
Firms have been churning these press releases
out since about 2015. EY has launched 17 of its
innovation hubs, which the firm trademarked as
“wavespace” centers (along with related capabili-
ties and intellectual property), in North America,
Europe, the Middle East and Asia. PwC operates
more than 30 if its “experience centers” around
the world. KPMG has a network of a half-dozen
“ignition centers” in the U.S. Accenture plans to
open 10 new innovation hubs in the U.S. within
the next few years. The Boston Consulting Group
(BCG) currently operates six “innovation centers
for operations (ICOs)” in the U.S., Europe and
Asia. Mercer operates three globally. McKin-
sey also has a global network of digital capabil-
ity centers including one in Chicago through a
partnership with the Digital Manufacturing and
Design Innovation Institute (DMDII). Deloitte,
North Highland and a number of other firms op-
erate their own innovation centers. The focus of
these innovation hubs varies significantly.
Based on visits, photos, video clips and comments from visitors, the centers look extremely
impressive from a design and technology standpoint. The cutting-edge office architecture and advanced technology create a genuine wow factor.
Some innovation centers are geared more toward specific industries or sectors. BCG’s ICOs,
which center on the use of digital and advanced
technologies and include model factories, address manufacturing’s digital transformation.
“The greatest value for clients is to experience
the direct impact in productivity gains and the
rapid return on investment from implementing
Industry 4.0 technologies,” reports Moundir Rachidi, the director of BCG’s ICOs.
Other hubs are much more broadly focused on
helping clients across industries conduct some
form of digital transformation—often by applying
a combination of design thinking, agile software
development approaches and traditional busi-