By Jack Money
Copyright © (2018) The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Oklahoma City’s Innovation District is about to become more innovative.
On Monday, the Oil & Gas Technology Center owned by Baker Hughes, a General Electric company, will become the BHGE Energy Innovation Center of North America.
Along with the new name comes plans to refocus its mission to foster, develop and deploy new oil and gas technologies.
Officials said the center will do that by expanding its work to include helping to launch startups and by providing those firms with access to venture capital.
The center’s newly appointed director, Taylor Shinn, said the transformation is a “truly disruptive innovation.”
“We believe that Oklahoma City, with its deep roots in the energy industry and proximity to North America customers, is the ideal backdrop” for the center, he said.
“We want to continue to build a technology ecosystem here that encourages the pursuit of ideas, regardless of where they originate, so long as they add value to our customers and support our corporate purpose to invent smarter ways to bring energy to the world.”
Shinn and Derek Mathieson, BHGE’s chief marketing and technology officer, said the firm aims to bring entrepreneurs with good ideas into the center and help them deploy the fruits of their work into the energy field as quickly as possible.
Mathieson noted Baker Hughes and GE have enjoyed long histories of being leaders in the development of innovative technology.
But he said it can happen faster.
“A new product can typically take two to three years before it can be available and put to use at a customer site,” he said. “The unique challenges and evolving needs of our customers in North America require a new approach, so we have repositioned the center to dramatically accelerate technology development for better outcomes.”
Shinn and Mathieson said the center, which employs more than 100, will continue its mission to support BHGE’s traditional enterprise technology development.
But, as an innovation center, its scientists and researchers also will:
- Search for or develop transformational technology that will augment or expand the company’s products and services.
- Create startups or “incubators” that use new and existing BHGE technologies.
- Connect successful startups with external venture capital partners.
- Establish the energy innovation center as an accelerator and collaborator to partners in technology, academia and the investment community.
Those partners and entrepreneurs will be allowed to co-locate and setup work spaces at the center to enhance collaboration on new projects, officials said.
Shinn and Mathieson said examples of incubator projects targeted to North American customers include the application of augmented-reality and mixed-reality technology to enhance asset management, the use of intelligent automation in the field to increase production through machine learning and to provide full-stream enhanced oil recovery services for unconventional reservoirs.
General manager to retire
A release announcing the center’s name change also notes that Mike Ming, a former Oklahoma Secretary of Energy who championed the effort to locate the research and development center in Oklahoma City and has served as its general manager since 2014, will retire at the end of July.
Shinn said he and other top BHGE officials are grateful to Ming for his leadership in establishing and putting a capable team in place to operate in a strong, collaborative culture.
Conceived and announced in 2013, work started on the center the following year. It opened in 2016 as the GE Oil and Gas Technology Center.
Shinn, director of ventures and growth at BHGE and a member of the center’s leadership team since 2014, said Thursday he expects the building’s population to grow in line with its new mission, and said he is excited about the possibilities it brings to the energy sector and the company’s customers.
“We recognize there is a changing market in the energy sector, and we want to stay ahead of that,” he explained.
“We are first and foremost going to continue to develop new technology for our company and our customers,” he said. “But with this transformation, we are arming the talented men and women there with additional tools and resources.”
Scott Meacham, president and CEO of nonprofit i2E Inc., mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies.
On Thursday, Meacham said he was aware of BHGE’s plan to create the innovation center and that he’s interested in its future.
Meacham said corporations historically have struggled to commercialize their own technologies.
“So I see this as a pretty innovative step by a company with a lot of resources who is saying, ‘We think we can change that,'” he said. “By bringing these resources together and focusing on that mission, they can make some things happen.”
Plus, it adds momentum to the city’s Innovation District, he said.
“It was good to have the research going on,” Meacham said. “It is probably even better to have research, and hopefully, technologies being spun out.”