Google Ideas, the company’s think tank, is relaunching as an incubator named Jigsaw (warning: autoplayed audio) to invest in and develop tech solutions to geopolitical problems and digital attacks. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and current executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s new parent company, announced the change in a Medium post:
“Why Jigsaw? For one thing, the new name acknowledges that the world is a complex puzzle of physical and digital challenges. For another, it reflects our belief that collaborative problem-solving yields the best solutions.
As a technology incubator, Jigsaw will be investing in and building technology to expand access to information for the world’s most vulnerable populations and to defend against the world’s most challenging security threats.”
A Google representative told TechCrunch that Jigsaw will be under Alphabet, not Google. Jared Cohen, who has led Google Ideas since it started five years ago, is now president of Jigsaw and will continue serving as an advisor to Schmidt.
Cohen previously worked in the U.S. State Department under former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. During the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, Cohen convinced Twitter to stay online despite a scheduled maintenance that would have temporarily shut it down in Iran, where it was being used by protestors to reach international media.
According to The New Yorker, the move almost cost Cohen his job since it conflicted with President Barack Obama’s non-interference rule, but he had the backing of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Cohen joined Google Ideas then next year.
During its time as a think tank, Google Ideas also supported ways to help people living in areas with heavy censorship or government corruption overcome those obstacles and get unfettered online access. Its products include Project Shield, to protect news sites from DDoS attacks and contributions to uProxy.
Jigsaw will continue to work on those projects, in addition to finding tech solutions for other problems.