The Kroger Co. has signed an agreement with the University of Cincinnati (UC) to operate an innovation lab within the school's 1819 Innovation Hub.
The Hub boasts a 12,000-square-feet makerspace and micro-factory, and state-of-the art classrooms and multi-purpose rooms. The space officially opened earlier this week for the fall semester. Kroger's 2,500-square-feet innovation lab will be located on the third floor of the four-story building. Construction is underway, and the retailer's space is expected to be complete in October.
"Kroger's new partnership with the University of Cincinnati is one more way we are investing to create the now and future of retail," said Chris Hjelm, Kroger's EVP and CIO. "This innovative collaboration is driven by Restock Kroger and provides the Kroger Technology team another creative space to partner and develop solutions to redefine the grocery customer experience."
The 1819 Innovation Hub is located within the Uptown Innovation Corridor and serves as a beacon of community innovation and impact in partnership with higher education. The recently-opened state-of-the-art space is the region's newest destination for thinking, making, doing, discovery and delivery.
Kroger will staff the 1819 Innovation Hub with resources, including R&D engineers and software developers, alongside UC faculty. The partnership will also feature a dynamic student co-op and internship program.
"The 1819 Innovation Hub is a coworking community where we will build and discover the next generation of technology and talent," continued Hjelm. "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."
UC's Innovation Agenda, as part of President Neville G. Pinto's new strategic direction, recognizes that people have choices when they decide to locate, and that proximity to other like-minded individuals is often critical to the decision-making process. By providing a place where innovative people and companies can thrive together in today's rapid pace of change, Cincinnati aims to become one of those cities chosen for location.
"As the anchor tenant of our burgeoning innovation district, UC's 1819 Innovation Hub is a microcosm of the bigger picture," said David J. Adams, University of Cincinnati's chief innovation officer. "Companies are choosing to co-locate here with us for proximity and access to the talent that a major research university provides. As the district comes to life with residential and retail options, the mix of students, faculty, industry and community that you see in our knowledge action center today will spill out into the surrounding neighborhood, making innovation a visual place in Cincinnati."
Pinto adds, "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. 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."
Kroger Technology is a partner with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's "Cincy is IT" initiative to attract top tech talent to the region. The company also supports Cincinnati-based Cintrifuse – a public-private partnership established to drive the next phase of growth for the Midwest region through innovation enabled and delivered by startups – including sponsoring an executive-in-residence.
Earlier this summer, Kroger announced its digital headquarters in downtown Cincinnati with plans to increase its current digital team of 500 associates to 1,000 by 2020.