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Nokia Bell Labs is heading to pastures new

After more than 80 years in Murray Hill, New Jersey, Nokia Bell Labs has decided to up sticks and move, albeit about 20 miles down the road.

Nick Wood

December 12, 2023

3 Min Read
Source: Nokia

It has unveiled plans to relocate to a new, state-of-the-art facility currently under construction in New Brunswick. That's New Brunswick in New Jersey, not the Canadian province. As part of a rejuvenation programme, the city is in the midst of developing a technology hub, called the Helix, on the site of an old shopping mall. Construction of the first of three buildings is already underway and when the whole site is finished, it will cater to both start-ups and revered tech heavyweights alike.

Bell Labs falls firmly into the latter category, so its plan to move into the Helix by 2028 lends the site a huge dose of credibility, one that has been recognised at both city and State level.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said "Nokia's presence in New Brunswick's growing tech hub will generate good-paying jobs and further solidify the city's standing as a regional leader in the innovation economy," while New Brunswick mayor Jim Cahill said the relocation "is a testament to the collaborative spirit, innovation, and forward-thinking attitude that defines our community.

"This venture will not only bring economic opportunities to our city, but will also create a hub of creativity and expertise that will undoubtedly contribute to the continued growth and success of New Brunswick," he said.

As for Nokia, it said the prospect of being in the thick of New Brunswick's burgeoning tech start-up scene was a contributing factor when it came to site selection. The Finnish kit maker said Bell Labs research teams will be able to collaborate in areas like quantum networking, photonics, optical research, 6G, AI and industrial automation in a tight-knit, campus environment.

"Our Murray Hill campus has been home to iconic Nokia Bell Labs innovation for over 80 years. As we look toward the future of Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs in the region, we will take with us all that makes us exceptional – our vision, brainpower, culture of disruptive innovation, and technical prowess – and marry that legacy with a modern research and development facility that is built to our needs," said Nokia's chief strategy and technology officer, Nishant Batra. "Ultimately, we want a facility that feels right for the next 100 years of Nokia Bell Labs."

On that note, the new lab, which will break ground in 2025, will also meet LEED Gold certification standards regarding sustainable construction, in line with Nokia's plan to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

In addition to a new home, Bell Labs is also keen to maximise the potential commercial opportunities for innovations that fall outside parent company Nokia's remit.

It already does this to an extent through intellectual property licensing, venture capital funding, and an internal incubator for new business creation.

Bell Labs is now ramping up these activities by establishing what it calls a venture studio in partnership with America's Frontier Fund (AFF) and Roadrunner Venture Studios (RVS). Its aim is to commercialise Bell Labs' more promising inventions. Nokia has also partnered with another VC outfit, Celesta Capital, to help scale ventures build on Bell Labs' technology.

"With the new venture partnerships and venture studio, Nokia Bell Labs harnesses the ability to commercialise its innovations that are further adjacent to Nokia’s strategy, or that can flourish better outside Nokia," the vendor explained. "By collaborating with seasoned venture partners, Nokia Bell Labs will be able to create and invest in strategic startups and industrialise external ventures to maximize long-term value creation for Nokia."

While these developments won't fill the void left by AT&T after it picked rival Ericsson for its $14 billion Open RAN deployment, Nokia certainly won't harm its US prospects by leveraging the heritage and reputation of Bell Labs.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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