'Bud Lab' director describes projects for Research Park facility

CHAMPAIGN — Anheuser-Busch InBev has shed more light on what will go on at "Bud Lab," its new data analytics center in the University of Illinois Research Park.

In a statement, the brewing company said the lab will work to "solve problems ranging from assortment optimization, social media and market trends to large-scale data initiatives."

The lab director, Rafael Pinterich, will choose and oversee the projects, working closely with student interns.

Responding to questions from The News-Gazette, Pinterich said four interns began work on two key projects this summer.

One project focused on social-media data analysis, and the second related to optimizing service to drive sales.

Pinterich said he expects to add projects in areas including pricing analysis, promotion strategies, trade marketing programs, market trends and social media.

Other employees of the lab include Ayyappadas Sreenivasan, the business intelligence director, and researchers Meng-Ying Yu and David Arpin.

The four interns this summer had backgrounds in statistics and industrial engineering, Pinterich said. They analyzed data, proposed analysis methods and provided insights for a new tool the AB InBev sales team is using.

Pinterich said he expects the number of interns to increase as the company builds its project portfolio.

"We are already in the recruiting process for the fall semester, and we'll also be present at the engineering and business career fairs to speak with students about future opportunities," he said.

Among the fields in which AB InBev plans to recruit students are statistics, computer science, engineering, business, information science and mathematics, he said.

AB InBev already has a marketing and information technology "innovation studio" in Palo Alto, Calif., that explores the future of connections between brands and consumers.

But Bud Lab will be "our first permanent presence on a university campus," Pinterich said.

The lab came about after several interactions between the company and the UI, he added.

Those included "hosting Chancellor Phyllis Wise at our operations in Brazil and through the participation of University of Illinois students in case competitions," he said.

Pinterich said the company was impressed by the academic community, environment and infrastructure of the UI Research Park.

"It seemed the perfect home for our data analytics research center," he said.

The lab, which uses an open-plan concept, is on the second floor of the Atkins Building, 1800 S. Oak St., C.

The lab is considered a global initiative of AB InBev that will support teams around the world. The company has operations in 24 countries.

Before being named lab director, Pinterich served as project specialist, regional finance manager and human resources lead for the company's Latin America North division.

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch was acquired in 2008 by InBev. The combined company, based in Leuven, Belgium, adopted the AB InBev name.

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