The Kroger Co. has revealed its plans to operate an innovation lab out of the University of Cincinnati (UC) in a move that company officials say is fueled by Restock Kroger.
Kroger plans to staff its lab, located in UC's new 1819 Innovation Hub, with research and development engineers and software developers who will work closely with UC faculty as well as student co-op members and interns.
Chris Hjelm, Kroger's EVP and chief information officer, said the effort is another way the company is investing to create the "now and future of retail," and it will provide the Kroger Technology team with a "creative space to partner and develop solutions to redefine the grocery customer experience."
"The 1819 Innovation Hub is a coworking community where we will build and discover the next generation of technology and talent," 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."
Additionally, Kroger Technology is partnering with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's "Cincy Is IT" initiative to bring top tech experts into the area and support Cincinnati-based Cintrifuse, a public-private partnership that works to stimulate growth in the Midwest through innovation delivered by startups.
UC President Neville G. Pinto said the recently opened innovation center will enrich the work of its students and faculty, as well as allow some of this innovation to spill into Cincinnati, making it more desirable real estate for individuals and companies alike as many people relocate to be around "like-minded individuals."
"Working with a hometown company and one of the world's largest retailers gives our university an opportunity to make an impact not only locally but also globally," Pinto said. "This is the kind of partnership that allows our students and faculty to work on real-world challenges in a cross-disciplinary way, while offering our corporate partners added value with access to talent, expertise, research, creativity and specialized equipment and technology."
The 1819 Innovation Hub offers a 12,000-square-foot "makerspace" and micro-factory, and state-of-the art classrooms and multipurpose rooms. Kroger's 2,500-square-foot innovation lab will be located on the third floor of the four-story building, which is slated to open in October.