Once you have taken the decision to strengthen your business based on organic growth you have already taken a very important strategic step. At the same time, you have placed yourself at the gambling table, because with all new opportunities comes a risk. But how can you take measures to control this risk and mitigate it as much as possible? Here are some practices you can utilize when looking for technological enablers to your new bio-based innovations.
Define your need and demand for functionality from your customer
The first key to reaching to success is to be able to map your current innovation need. Most organizations succeeding with their innovations has defined a clear target and been able to describe a clear mission/goal. Innovation can in general terms be described with two main objectives; improving operational systems or improving products for end-users. The latter is often a process in market-driven organizations where shifts are taking place (pull from downstream in the value chain, regulatory changes, or market push innovations from suppliers). The understanding of customer requirements for functionality is in my view critical here, and growing demand from certain trends in the market like the rapid increase in sales of electric cars. I think Steve Jobs said once that “you got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology”. I think it’s a very good way of starting, even in heavy business-to-business relationships. And make sure you have mapped where the trends are moving, trust your initial understanding of situations.
We have been writing several pieces on how to do bio-based innovations earlier, feel free to read up on this here.
Screen for raw materials based on their characteristics and following functionality proposition
Use Google for what it’s worth. If you would ask your colleagues from 1960 in the company you work for (given that your company was there in the 1960s) how they would like to find information, I think Google would be a fantasy they would not believe to happen. You can find amazing amounts of information supporting your innovation projects, and if you support these with quality industry web sites like www.ulprospector.com, www.specialchem.com, www.happi.com, www.industryweek.com can give you good value for time spent. A rule of thumb to me: if you can find information easily matching your functionality need, you are probably dealing with a supplier understanding your situation and what you are looking for. That’s a quality you may need in supporting success of your innovation.
Looking for next generation additives for rheological control of water borne systems? Check out our views on this here.
Set the right scope and resources on the task
Always reward creative talent. And map the people in your organizations to find which are starters and finishers and make them work on what they are good at. The talented starters will most likely get the ideas blooming but ensure to have well-performing finishers (often with great understanding of customer needs) to finish the job.
Run trials, understand the material and what you are seeing
Never be scared of spending time on trial and error. Your organization will learn a lot from it. But there is good guidance in the term: “try to do it right the first time”. Allow your organization to spend time on understanding the materials, a lot of innovations has been initiated because of coincidences.
Get your customer on board on the development
The most critical voice is the one of your customer or prospect. In my field of bio-based innovations, the customer is setting the pace to meet new and increasingly powerful end-user demands downstream. To be able as an organization to understand these trends at a stage where you are still able to adjust to them is critical, especially in innovation projects as the pace of innovations tend to go increasingly faster. There are also more direct regulatory guidance like the EU ban on single-use plastics from 2021. The same limitations are happening in China on solvent borne coatings. At the end of the day, the advice from me: stay in close contact with your downstream partners to stay ahead.
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