Collaboration is everywhere these days in chemical industry innovation efforts, and in many cases it has moved beyond the walls of a single company. When managed properly, the results of these endeavors can benefit everyone - the companies, consumers and the planet.
Most people think of Merck as a pharmaceutical company, not an electronics company. But their innovative spirit has taken them to new and exciting places in the field of bioelectronics. Merck contends that “bioelectronic medical devices could enable targeted treatment of chronic diseases.” This is a transformational shift for the company. Merck is taking its expertise in drug delivery and bioelectronics and working with external partners to “create novel modalities to enhance the quality of care for patients in several chronic diseases.”
Here’s another example of digital innovation in the chemical industry - BASF started a joint venture with Bosch to promote smart farming. For decades, chemicals have been applied by spraying over thousands of acres. That hasn’t been a good use of expensive resources - and it certainly hasn’t been good for the environment. But the innovative Smart Spraying solution being developed by BASF and Bosch combines high-tech camera sensor technology and software with agronomic intelligence so that herbicide is only applied where needed.
Initial trials of this real-time, automated weed identification and management system have shown herbicide volume savings of 70% are achievable. That represents remarkable financial savings for farmers and an even bigger benefit for Mother Earth.
Getting Everyone on the Same Page
Having external creative minds collaborating on innovation efforts often leads to a wealth of new ideas which might otherwise not have arisen if the company was solely working on innovation in-house. Some of these ideas lead to additional internal product opportunities that will be developed inside the company and some lead to additional innovation opportunities that include further partnerships and additional ecosystem participants.
Creative minds from outside of the organization can also change the course of innovation during product development. The result is a better product outcome that incorporates a wide scope of insight and viewpoints. These types of ideas must be captured, vetted, evaluated, prioritized and processed within the innovation system, not at the front end of the innovation system.
Historically, such adaptations were labeled as change requests, but in today’s competitive environment they need to be embraced in the same way as ideas for new products or capabilities. The process and the supporting innovation applications need to embrace these changes as well as the participants who suggested them.
It is essential in ecosystem-oriented innovation that all these aspects of innovation be captured and appropriate boundaries of IP be well recognized and understood. Again, the innovation systems and applications need to enable this.
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With an eye toward keeping all ecosystem collaborators aligned and moving forward, here are three imperatives for digital innovation in the chemical industry.
1. A single innovation system
Understanding responsibilities can be confusing and cause delays once organizational boundaries are blurred. Consequently, it’s vital that all participants—whether internal or external—must have an easy way to visualize, navigate and participate in the maze of product, company and strategic hierarchies. Team members must have a place to work and a place to capture and collectively vet ideas for new products and capabilities or for improvements to innovation underway. Having everyone on the same page increases participation, accelerates time-to-market and increases the likelihood of success.
2. Freedom to innovate
It’s important to implement an agnostic collaborative approach that gives each participant within the innovation ecosystem the ability to model and implement as they see fit. Whether it’s agile, gated or another process, it’s critical that people have the flexibility necessary to achieve strategic goals.
3. Financial and product information integration
Finally, cross-organizational teams need the ability to manage and visualize strategic, financial and product information in the same system. Real-time reporting and clear visibility is the best way to ensure that goals are being achieved within your organization and with your partners. An understanding of strategy is essential to guide new innovation.
Sopheon provides its global customers with superior innovation strategy-to-execution performance - both internally and in joint ventures. As collaboration grows in the years ahead, having the ability to facilitate dynamic ecosystem interaction and decision-making will help the world’s innovators to realize digital transformation success.