AI, drones and more: Diageo launches Breakthrough Innovation Team

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Breakthrough innovation. Pic: Diageo
Breakthrough innovation. Pic: Diageo

Related tags Diageo Innovation Npd AI Artificial intelligence Sustainability Technology

Diageo’s new Breakthrough Innovation Team is tasked with pushing innovation beyond product development, and into new areas such as AI and next-generation technologies.

Diageo – the company behind Johnnie Walker, Don Julio and Guinness – will sit the new team within its current innovation function.

The core remit of the team is to ‘drive its innovators to think, behave and create differently’: and build new business models that provide transformational value.

Global Breakthrough Innovation Director Guy Middleton (previously General Manager Innovation – Asia Pacific) explained: “The Breakthrough Innovation team has been created to stretch Diageo’s thinking beyond what it is today, ‘painting a picture’ of a future that is desirable for Diageo, our consumers, and society as a whole.

“People may feel a little discomfort when they initially enter ‘Breakthrough’ territory, however the ambition of this team is test, learn, and ‘de-risk’ new ideas, ensuring the future breakthrough innovations that move into the core of the business are less susceptible to potential threats and are more effective at driving Diageo forward.”

Three key avenues for the team are:

  • Facilitate Diageo’s disruption into new platforms, technologies, and experiences. For example, the ‘What’s Your Whisky​’ platform helps consumers find the whisky profile best suited to their tastes. The platform - revealed in 2019 - draws on AI and machine learning​.
  • Shape the future of Diageo’s current portfolio of brands. Seedlip – the non-alcoholic spirit brand acquired by Diageo in 2019 – is helping consumers understand the brand and category with the launch of ‘Elli​’, a virtual AI-concierge
  • Assist Diageo’s progress towards its ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ goals, the company’s 10-year ESG action plan. Last year Diageo introduced drones​ ​to boost efficiency at its agave farms in Mexico.

The team will actively look for partners to collaborate with to test and learn Breakthrough ideas.

The recent launch of Diageo’s Accelerator program Fusion by Diageo​’​ is one such example, which will identify leading innovators to co-develop with Diageo the next generation of digital products.

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