CableLabs is putting together a new R&D team that will be headed by a new senior vice president (yet to be designated) and located in a new facility in Silicon Valley.

(The organization has another project, currently under wraps, that it will be announcing on Monday.)

New CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney referred to CableLabs as cable’s Bell Labs, and by that, he clearly holds a classicist’s vision of the venerable research institution, now part of Alcatel-Lucent and a thinner version of what it once was.

Even after AT&T’s breakup in 1984, Bell Labs continued to perform both basic and applied research and development, but the exigencies of becoming a profit-and-loss center inevitably meant that the balance shifted decidedly away from basic R&D toward applied R&D.

McKinney said that part of his job is to ensure that cable is the innovation platform of choice. To that end, CableLabs intends to form a small R&D team, headed by a senior vice president, that will concentrate on basic R&D.

Innovation implies risk, and McKinney is clearly ready to take that risk. Describing the new team, he said, “They’re going to have a high failure rate; they’re there to try things out.”

CableLabs will relocate its current small office in San Francisco to a facility in the heart of Silicon Valley, which it is still looking for. That’s where the new team will work, along with other CableLabs engineers. McKinney said he’s aiming to get the operation up and running by early summer.

Some CableLabs engineers currently stationed at the organization’s digs in Louisville, Colo., have applied to transfer, he said.

McKinney also said that though the new team will be stationed in Silicon Valley, CableLabs fully intends to encourage innovation in Colorado, too. He said he expects engineers might rotate in and out of the Silicon Valley and Louisville offices.