The German company SAP delivers software and high-tech services to large and small businesses. The company continues to improve production processes, technology, marketing and other components of any business with its own R&D. In addition, SAP collaborates with universities and research centers to create innovative projects to solve the problems of their clients.

SAP Next-Gen Lab is a new initiative set up on the basis of SAP University Alliance, which is a system in place where special laboratories are opened at universities in which design teams work on tasks for customers and partners of SAP. Worldwide there are 20 such centers, 15 of them in universities, three in Russia. Centers have been established at the Moscow Technological University and Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas. This is the first such lab which has opened in St. Petersburg on the basis of the Convergent Innovation Center of ITMO University.

"Our University is a completely open site, which is focused on a wide range of tasks. At the University, there is constantly innovation, there are various structures, whose task is to promote the entrepreneurial activity of students and teachers. So it's safe to say that SAP Next-Gen Lab came to the right place, the innovation hub of St. Petersburg", — said ITMO Rector Vladimir Vasilyev.

The "prototype" of SAP Next-Gen Lab first appeared in Stanford University. That was where the centre was setup, which also received business objectives from clients and SAP partners, for example, from Tesla, Volvo, and others. Students worked on these tasks together with representatives of SAP and business customers. Under the terms of cooperation, within seven months after receiving the order, the developers had to present a valid solution to the problem. In the end, every year about 50 dissertations of graduates from the University were dedicated to real and relevant research.

SAP Next-Gen Labs are created either by on the basis of research areas — from sports to minerals and from media to retail, or special projects. Priority projects for the company are the development of the Internet of things, virtual reality, machine learning, and blockchain technology for drones. The main feature of the centers is that students and teachers can work not only with companies, but also with residents of other such centers.

"Our goal is to ensure that students and teachers engage in in-demand projects and create solutions that capture the world. Some people say that you don't have to cooperate with corporations to achieve this. This is in some respect true but independent R&D costs much more and requires more time. There are a lot of scientists working at SAP, and there are also a lot of salespeople and customers. Others say that cooperation with corporations is dangerous because of the intellectual property rights since supposedly big companies might steal a startup idea. However, innovations might take place in the context of large or small companies. The founders of SAP were working at IBM, and still have good partnerships with this company", — commented Dmitry Shepelyaviy, Director of the cluster "Industry, Energy, Telecommunications and State Enterprises" at SAP CIS.

On the eve of the opening of ITMO University’s SAP Next-Gen Lab Center, there was a contest seminar held at the University AdTech SAP InnoJam. Team-workshop participants listened to a crash course on using SAP products for R&D and got some cases that need to be solved with new knowledge and skills that they gained. The cases were arranged such that the developers had to come up with non-standard applications of SAP for advertising technology of the future. The event was held in partnership with the company "Mediatekh", and the best teams were granted places in the St. Petersburg SAP Next-Gen Lab.

Four teams participated in the competition. The team from the Polytechnic University of Peter the Great developed the concept of the idea of a "mirror-helper", which prompts the user to immediately "try on" virtual clothes from an online shop and can also choose cosmetics, book theatre tickets and offer other products, analyzing the tastes of the owner.

The team from ITMO University and Saint Petersburg State University proposed to use and analyze data about bank customers to offer them more targeted advertising or to assist in search of partners. This system is particularly useful for small businesses, which often have difficulty finding partners at an early stage of development.

Two other teams suggested to create an automated marketing site, as well as augmented reality glasses that will display information about certain products or companies from the Internet. The jury praised all four project teams giving them the same number of points and therefore the opportunity to become a resident of the SAP Next-Gen Lab and co-working in "Mediatekh". Following the event, students got a glimpse of the real needs of the media industry and existing technological trends. They will get support in the laboratory, SAP Next-Gen Lab for the realization of their projects.