New Cisco Investment Fund Targets Early-Stage, Experimental Tech

The idea, according to Cisco, is to ballast projects that aren't yet ready for full-scale development or to be put through the paces in Cisco's Emerging Technologies group but could "entirely disrupt the status quo in existing markets or open up new markets by solving problems with better, more convenient, or simply cheaper approaches," wrote David McCulloch, director, corporate communications, in a post to the company's corporate Platform blog Wednesday

In the post, Cisco describes the fund as being "designed to nurture disruptive ideas inside Cisco that are currently nowhere on the company's radar ... but which might become another TelePresence, Catalyst or Jabber ten years from now."

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Cisco didn't specify how much it will invest in the initiative, which is called, simply, the Technology Fund. Joel Bion, Cisco senior vice president of advanced research and development, will oversee the fund, which is different from Cisco's main R&D budget and also separate from Cisco's Emerging Technologies organization.

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According to Bion, who answered questions about the fund in a video accompanying the blog post, senior engineers can use the money to hire contractors, purchase equipment, backfill the work they're leaving behind on other projects and implement other things that allow them a full-time focus on their ideas.

Cisco's R&D investment -- it spent about $5.49 billion, or about 12 percent of revenue, in its fiscal 2012, according to company filings -- is one of the biggest among tier-one technology vendors, but it's unclear how much Cisco will spend in addition to that on the Technology Fund.

Cisco wasn't specific on which engineers would qualify for Technology Fund approval. But, Bion said the Fund will typically grant senior engineers a year to 18 months away from the normal flow of Cisco engineering projects to focus on those ideas, provided they've met certain requirements and the project's been approved by a team of Cisco Fellows, CTOs and engineering managers.