Rolls Royce accelerates digital transformation with R² Factory
In 2023 and beyond, companies and organisations globally are digitally transforming to keep up with the modern, tech-savvy industry.
In tech conferences around the world we have often seen big brands that are not necessarily digital technology brands (such as Heineken, KFC, and Real Madrid FC to name a few), appearing on stage and talking about how they are depending on technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to give their brand a boost.
“We are not a technology brand, we are brewers,” said Heineken’s CTO last year.
With the pressure to keep up, how can brands take on digital transformation technologies when they are not already in the industry itself?
In 2017, car manufacturer and aero-engine manufacturing firm Rolls-Royce took on artificial intelligence and machine learning to set its data transformation in stone, and, with a pretty solid team, chose to branch itself out to become R² Factory.
It helps “major global corporates and major industrial entities, that are a little bit like Rolls-Royce, to manage their own digital transformation”, R² Factory’s chief marketing officer Alex Vail told TechInformed.
“We help them to build new technology solutions, which are artificial intelligence or machine powered,” explains Vail. “So we work with them to try and unlock the value from the data that they have.”
As a chief marketing officer, what this means for Vail is not only marketing but also looking after its membership programme.
Within its membership programme, R² Factory will “identify a number of high potential individuals within their businesses who could be change agents, and help them drive digital transformation.”
They will also work with those individuals to give them the training and then, “they are in a much better position to be able to embed new technology in their firms to drive digital cultural transformation”.
For Vail, marketing at R² Factory is “very different to most marketing roles”.
“My job is actually to build communities around those ideas and to give the people within those communities the opportunity to learn from each other and learn from us as well,” explains Vail.
With this, R² Factory wants to create a space where companies can come together and talk about the problems they are facing and the challenges they’re dealing with, and they can identify things they have in common.
Vail states: “Ultimately, the thing that drives R² Factory is a deep belief that system-wide problems require system-wide collaboration.”
As it stands, from R² Factory’s perspective, organisations are facing three main hurdles when it comes to digital transformation: struggling to harness their vast amount of data, access to data scientists, and lack of training for current employees to handle new technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“Tech talent is massively in demand,” says Vail, but it’s extremely expensive, so what a lot of organisations look to do is upskill, “which is great up to a point”.
The team at R² Factory believe that it is uniquely placed to become a neutral place for major global organisations, that wouldn’t necessarily consider collaborating with each other, to come and work together to help solve “some of the world’s biggest, gnarliest problems”.
At the moment, R² Factory is working on a number of issues across sustainability such as net zero initiatives, working with businesses to identify scope three emissions, and working with supply chain intelligence.
“You can’t really tackle sustainability as a proper issue unless you tackle it within the supply chain,” says Vail.
Another area that it works on is trustworthiness in artificial intelligence. Within this, R² Factory has opened The Aletheia Framework, which it calls its toolkit for ethics and trustworthiness in artificial intelligence, which it has made freely available for anyone to use.
“It is a model for creating ethical artificial intelligence, so it sets a list of over 30 things to consider when building AI,” explains Vail.
It was initially meant for simply industrial use cases but has since been used across a number of industries including medical use cases.
So, instead of constantly trying to retrofit ethics into an existing AI, ethical AI can be “conceived at an earlier stage”.
Finally, another huge piece of work R² Factory has undergone is digital cultural transformation.
As Rolls-Royce tackled the issue itself, it upskilled nearly 35,000 people, with “78,000 hours of digital cultural learning”, says Vail.
Then, during the pandemic, R² Factory made the digital cultural transformation courses widely available, and there’s been over 25,000 other people who have taken the courses.
“If you can create a digital mindset, you can change the way the humans and the businesses approach the technology they’re interacting with.”
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