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Thought Leadership

Accelerating Collaborative Innovation at Keywords Studios

Author: Jamie Campbell, Global Head of Innovation at Keywords Studios
Date Published: 20/03/2024

The Vision

Innovation is in our DNA at Keywords Studios; cutting edge products such as PXN from Indigo Pearl, Mighty Build and Test, and Helpshift pave the way for future offerings and act as examples of how to transform our landscape in ways that are informed by our business strategy. 

As Global Head of Innovation at Keywords Studios, my vision is to innovate as an organisation, be requirements-driven, enable smart decision making to enhance effectiveness, efficiency, value for money, and employee lived experience by identifying and addressing future challenges.

The word ‘effectiveness’ is used very deliberately. Whereas others may choose to use ‘efficacy’, at Keywords we are laser focused on practice rather than theory – we need our R&D and Innovation activity to be rooted in our real-world markets. This is not a vanity project, or a free-form research and development money pit. 

How do we innovate at Keywords Studios?

When we talk about Innovation at Keywords Studios, we like to put a little more meat on the bones compared to a standard definition. Perhaps this is due to our being a tech-led service company – not only do we look to innovate for ourselves, but we also view innovation through the lens of our partners and clients. 

We ask our teams to bear in mind that innovation at Keywords Studios means improving products, processes or services including the way we operate internally, and how these improvements positively impact employees’ lived experiences at work.

For Keywords, innovation can also refer to:

  • New business models
  • The introduction of our existing products or services to new markets
  • Bringing technology from other markets into our space. 

What are the benefits of Innovation?

For a services company working in the games industry, innovation offers a unique set of benefits:

Operational Effectiveness is achieved through the development and implementation of efficient processes, which not only optimise resource allocation but also enhance the quality and speed of game development production processes. 

Organisational Efficiency is critical for seamless collaboration among various teams and departments. It streamlines decision-making, minimises bottlenecks, and allows for faster product delivery and adaptation to market trends.

Increased Value for Money is realised through the intelligent allocation of resources. 

Enhanced Employee Lived Experience is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. A company's commitment to innovation creates a stimulating work environment, fosters professional development, and empowers employees to contribute meaningfully to the company's success.

What are the Enablers?

People - Our digitally skilled workforce is our most valuable asset. Their proficiency in digital technologies and video game expertise translates into the driving force behind our video game solutions, setting us apart in a highly competitive industry.

Process - We build on a principle of developing outcome-focused innovation initiatives. These projects are enabled by a common tech stack and adherence to standards, fostering shared knowledge and best practices. 

Data is a pivotal enabler for our innovation efforts. We analyse data across our organisation, assess the data we own and can access (with permission), and identify areas where data should be collected but currently isn't. This strategic approach empowers our IT and IS professionals to make data accessible in a responsible way, enhancing decision-making and aligning with the current trend of responsible and transparent use of AI for continuous improvement.

Technology - We focus our expertise of integration and the effective utilisation of technology to achieve outcomes aligned with the needs of our innovation stakeholders. By being experts in these areas, we seamlessly integrate technology into our solutions for our own services and for our clients’ products, ensuring they meet the highest standards.

Accelerating Innovation at Keywords Studios

As we started to accelerate and consolidate Innovation at Keywords Studios, we wanted to make a statement of intent to show that we are serious about reinforcing a culture innovation both to our staff and to our clients.

I decided to develop Labs at Keywords Studios.

Labs at Keywords Studios is an innovation management framework and online portal accessible to all employees, enabling the sharing of opportunities that people see where innovation can make a difference. That could be to capture ideas, solve production problems, defend against (or adopt) disruptive and emerging technologies, or discovering ways we can use technology to reinforce our environmental and social governance. 

We also allow our clients to engage with us through Labs at Keywords Studios to share the challenges they face, so we can assist them in making progress. This involves running workshops with clients to understand their challenges and together, look for solutions. 

Across our studios and our clients, we probably see more production processes and pipelines than any other company in our sector. Labs at Keywords Studios is where we catalogue all of Keywords’ tools and tech, as well as the best practices we've developed that have been successful in delivering for our clients over the years. Labs helps us optimise the speed and quality of game development services. It also surfaces common points of friction that we can help our studios and clients overcome as they continue to develop their production pipelines to build the best games.
Jeroen Bouwman 
Head of Labs at Keywords Studios

Labs at Keywords Studios regularly hosts ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions with external tech companies, allowing our thousands of technologists the opportunity to attend and stay on the leading edge of industry developments. 

AI Centre of Excellence

The Keywords Studios AI Centre of Excellence was founded under the Innovation at Keywords Studios banner, to co-ordinate AI related research, discussion, and knowledge sharing. Our teams have agency to undertake autonomous applied research in the AI domain but are connected through our Centre of Excellence to avoid duplication of effort, to enable knowledge transfer across the business, and maintain forward momentum.

Our AI Centre of Excellence is also an ideal vehicle for clients to engage with Keywords and take advantage of our collaborative approach to AI.

“Keywords is buzzing with AI innovation. Some teams have been using Machine Learning and Deep Learning for years, HelpShift and Kantan are great examples of this; others have been using off-the-shelf AI to streamline business processes, or help with asset management. Due to the acquisitive nature of Keywords, before the AI CoE was established some of this innovation happened in silos and missing opportunities for cross-learning. When we transfer knowledge, share and collaborate, great things happen.”
Stephen Peacock 
Head of Games AI at Keywords Studios


The Centre of Excellence operates an incubator scheme for start-ups, consisting of quarterly meetings to review and feedback on product offerings.

For companies that have market-ready offerings, in Innovation at Keywords Studios we continuously run technical evaluations on the technology solutions being developed by potential partners. Our teams become acquainted with these products, leading to implementation partnerships with preferred suppliers. 

The vast number of development resources within Keywords enables companies on our Implementation Partner programme to scale rapidly with a variable cost model, rather than having to hire en masse. 

Image Reference: Goffin & Kierans (2023). Innovation Growth: The Journey from A to B While Building C. Rhealogica Publishing

Relationship to IT and Operations

It’s vital that, as departments, Innovation and Operations communicate with each other. Technology and innovation are both transient and dynamic domains that constantly overlap. What is innovation one year is business as usual the next. At Keywords, once an innovation initiative is productised (whether externally as a new offering, or internally adopted), it becomes the responsibility of IT and Operations to support and maintain. This creates a flywheel system where IT and Operations are key stakeholders who inform future potential innovations that could enhance our internal and external product offerings.

This process includes the investigations into the potential commercialisation of our own internal technology products. Innovation at Keywords Studios surfaces internal tools and technologies that have been independently developed by our teams (not for our clients) and our peer-review judging panels select high potential candidates that could be developed into commercial product offerings. MemferretTM is a low-intrusion high-performance memory profile tool for Unreal Engine; we are investigating how we might offer this tool to clients on a commercial basis. 

At Keywords we have also integrated our technology with our Helpshift product. By combining highly efficient and effective machine translation into AI-based customer and player support chatbots, we can improve customer support experience, accuracy, and speed as well as help our human agents support wider groups of customers.

Project AVA is an R&D collaboration between our AI Centre of Excellence and teams across seven Keywords Studios, looking at the feasibility for GenAI to augment and enhance game development production processes in the future. Innovation and Labs at Keywords Studios provides a sandbox and safe space for the teams to experiment with technology, while maintaining a firewall between R&D activities and our clients’ projects, ensuring no contamination can occur. The findings from these initiatives are captured and shared across the organisation so as technologies mature and clients begin to ask Keywords to use those tools, we are already informed and ready to exploit the relevant technologies by moving them into our operational sphere. However, we can also advise clients where we feel that bleeding-edge technology is not yet ready for commercial use due to technical limitations or other issues. 

Image Reference: Adapted from Goffin & Kierans (2023). Innovation Growth: The Journey from A to B While Building C. Rhealogica Publishing

Making the games of the future

Technology brings the promise of deeper immersion, larger games, believable NPCs, ever-increasing variety, and nuanced personalisation. Generative AI is currently in focus, but the role of innovation is also to address the possibility of what might come next.

In conclusion, our innovation strategy is built upon the influence of our business strategies, the strengths of our digitally skilled workforce, outcome-oriented processes, data-driven decision-making, and technology aligned with all innovation stakeholders. This approach positions our video game tech company for continued success in creating ground-breaking and immersive solutions for our clients, as together we delight gamers worldwide.

The Power of Partnership: Our Clients

WB Games
Take 2 Interactive
Sony interactive entertainment
Perfect World
NetEase Games
Square Enix
Bandai Namco games
Tencent games
Riot Games
Electronic Arts
Cyber Agent