By George Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer & Vice President of Caterpillar’s Marketing & Digital Division


For 90 years, Caterpillar has carried the worldwide reputation as sturdy, reliable and Built For It™. We’ve earned that reputation by always being focused on what’s next; innovation and collaboration are inherent here at Caterpillar.  Companies that don’t commit to the future will find themselves victims to what I refer to as “Digital Darwinism.” To stay ahead of the game you need to consistently up your game inside and out.

Caterpillar was founded on innovation—like the distinctive steel belt that ‘crawled’ through muddy fields—giving us our name. That’s why we invest heavily in research and development (about $2 billion per year) and why we hire the best minds to move us forward.  Caterpillar employs nearly 11,000 engineers and technologists around the world, and another 1,700 employees right here in Mossville, Illinois, leading our R&D efforts. Caterpillar is more committed than ever to delivering the quality products we’ve become known for, but with a renewed emphasis on acting like a startup—experimenting and learning quickly to get it right.

As part of the next generation of technology, we’ve created a division that’s focusing on our efforts in digital, analytics and innovation, and we’re working with some of the best minds across Illinois and the world to make sure we have the culture, tools and talent to innovate. To date, our innovative teams have delivered smart, connected technologies that leverage big data and analytics to improve productivity, fuel efficiency, safety, infrastructure and more.

As an example of what can be achieved when corporations open up to open innovation, our teams tested Cat® Connect technologies by building two roads—one with technology, and one without. Our machines equipped with technology cut time spent building a road in half and labor time by more than 30 percent, compared to the traditional methods of building a road. Those technology-enabled machines also helped reduce fuel consumption by 37 percent and saved an estimated 12 acres of forest by reducing emissions – all in a single project.

Collaborations between the private and public sector are critical to fostering a culture of innovation within the company. This year we announced a joint effort with Chicago-based company, Uptake. The partnership will seek to develop a data analytics platform that takes product data and presents it back to the customers in a user-friendly system. Customers and dealers will know how machines are doing, where there are problems, and when or where there may be problems ahead.

Earlier this year we also celebrated the Grand Opening of our Champaign Data Innovation Lab at the University of Illinois (U of I) Research Park. It’s a space for students and Caterpillar analytics teams to experiment, stand up solutions and work with startups at a nearby incubator.

In the past few months, our Venture Capital team has explored 265 startup companies, had deeper discussions with 23 of them and invested in four. Direct investment through corporate venture capital is one other critical way we work with companies to help define Caterpillar’s future.

Last month we worked with the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC) to invite 10 startups, most from Illinois, to pitch us during the Caterpillar Startup Challenge. We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity of combining insightful minds from startups with the best and the brightest we have here.

We’ll be Built For It™ for the next 90 years, because we will keep looking for the next big thing to make sure our customers and our dealers succeed. With the talent in Illinois, we’re sure to find some of those answers in our own backyard.

Watch and Listen

Caterpillar Startup Challenge

Caterpillar Data Innovation Labs



Illinois Innovation Network Featured Resource:

Illinois Innovation Network Featured Resource: Each month, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition features a service or resource available to innovators and entrepreneurs in the state of Illinois on the Illinois Innovation Network. To learn more and add your resource to the Network, click here.

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