Building a Brighter Future through a Powerful Ecosystem  When was the last time you flipped a light switch? You may not even recall.   For centuries, electricity has been a great creator of economic growth, human development and societal innovation in human history. Through the history of electricity, nations have been on a rapid march towards making significant progress on access to healthcare, education and entrepreneurship. For the first time ever, the number of people without access to electricity fell below 1 billion in 2017, according to International Energy Agency.  Achieving access to reliable and affordable electricity is essential for creating a better future. It takes energy technologies and innovative partnerships to provide access to electricity in all corners of the world. The key to success in the future energy system is a holistic approach that leverages the full potential of electrification throughout the entire energy value chain.   I was invited to the ‘Egypt Megaproject’ in Beni Suef by Siemens to get first-hand look at the largest combined cycle power in the world. Siemens have partnered with Elsewedy Electric, Orascom Construction and local authorities to power energy-driven transformation in Egypt. The country needs a reliable and affordable energy system to stabilize both the energy supply and to drive Egypt’s sustainable economic growth. The partnership aims to improve lives and create new local opportunities by using energy technologies to provide more efficient and sustainable energy access.   Scaling Up Innovation through Electricity Access Never in history has the pace of urbanization been so rapid. Access to electricity has an enabling innovation effect by creating social and economic opportunities for the country. The high-tech industry plays a key role for new opportunities for efficiency, technological and business innovation at the scale required for achieving the SDGs. Governments today are partnering with technology providers as a catalyst to achieve socio-economic and digital transformation. The ‘Egypt Megaproject’ aims to allow start-ups, corporate companies, scientists and local authorities to work alongside one another and hopefully create a better future for the country. A mix of energy sources, technologies and new business models opens doors for improving lives. The wealth of opportunities offered by energy investments and strategic collaborations is bringing expertise to scale up innovation in the most transformative and positive way possible.   "This is a major achievement for our country and our people. I am proud that the Siemens team was selected to contribute to this success. The plants will supply enough electricity for 45 million people and enable Egypt to achieve USD1.3 billion in fuel savings on an annual basis. With these projects, we provide an essential contribution to stabilize both the energy supply and the economy in our country, which has an outstanding importance for the whole Middle East region and Africa." Emad Ghaly, CEO of Siemens Egypt   People, not technologies, are unlocking new opportunities  Technologies have redefined how people live. Energy technologies are transforming industry structures and national economies. The ‘Egypt Megaproject’ will impact the country and industries across multiple fronts. The result of the project is a profound change in the economics, environment and valuation of traditional industries. At the same time, energy technologies demand more technology savvy citizens and employees. The combination of a powerful energy system and transfer of know-how through a training program can have an extraordinary outcome if it is done in a strategic and low practical way. The role of high-tech companies in the 21st Century has changed. Companies have to support countries and individuals in seizing opportunities in today’s complex technology ecosystem. In other words, in the end it is the know-how and skills of the citizens that create the results in a complex energy infrastructure. To move beyond small-scale improvements and achieve a national shift towards an innovation-driven economy, there is a need to establish an efficiency standard for educational and technical facilities. Education is the foundation for a successful transformation of the country. By empowering people with technical know-how, they can realize their capability for rethinking the future of their lives. For large-scale projects, like the ‘Egypt Megaproject’, with expected impacts across industries and communities, a holistic collaboration model, adds value by engaging policy-makers, investors, competitors, citizens and other relevant stakeholders.   Through public-private partnerships such as Zein Al Abdeen Technical School, we can invest in what works and scale up dual education system in the country. The SDGs is helping companies to pay more attention to more long-term thinking and action plans to harness the power of their investments. Siemens have partnered with the German Government and the Egyptian Ministry of Education and Technical Education to expand new opportunities for Egyptians students.  How corporate companies and nations imagine tomorrow’s world is central; their mindset, financial partnerships, innovation and educational initiatives. These are exciting times for large-scale transformation. The power of a collaborative ecosystem and technological advancements creates radically new opportunities for how we rethink the future of our world.
In the industry 4.0, collaboration is the name of game

Strategic innovation: From abstract vision to concrete reality

December 21, 2018
Anja Hoffmann

Innovation in practice is the critical factor for successful transformation. Many business executives know they want to transform their business, but they don’t know the steps to take. So, how can business executives develop business and innovation strategies that can scale in the age of the industry 4.0?

As the costs of technology decrease and markets mature, innovative companies that combine the power of understanding emerging business trends and 4IR technologies are driving industrial transformation on a large scale in the lifecycle of a product, process, or even an entire industry.

In the industry 4.0, collaboration is the name of game

Historically, companies were almost solely focused on developing their own in-house technology solutions within customer management, R&D, manufacturing and finance analytics. Even though some of the approaches within the areas are still relevant, companies need to rethink how the develop and design ecosystems for collaborations and technology solutions.

In a world of increasingly specialized high-tech companies, a single company typically doesn’t have the resources, insights and competencies to develop new solutions from start to finish. New ways of collaboration and technologies redefine the ways business is conducted and profits are realized. To achieve successful innovation, companies need to rely on other actors in their innovation ecosystem. Executives are expected to be more open-minded. The winners are able to develop ideas, processes or products in less time and with less money. It’s not just keeping up with trends and technologies that are complicated. It’s keeping up with the right trends and technologies in a strong ‘ecosystem for innovation’. Collaboration is notoriously complicated, because its raises many new challenges. But strong ecosystems have undoubtedly resulted in more diversified and innovative companies. They have also created potentially more resilient and stronger companies due to their numerous opportunities to combine insights and know-how, and to create value in new ways.

The most impactful innovations occur in unexpected areas of the ecosystem

Innovation can occur in any part of the ecosystem. I think the biggest hurdle is ensuring that the ‘ecosystem for innovation’ is inclusive of everyone in that ecosystem. In today’s high-tech world, the right know-how at the right time is critical to your successful business transformation and innovation. Strategic partnerships or cross-business-unit collaborations are a key enabler of innovation. An ecosystem for innovation can be a catalyst for the growth and innovation of a business. The successful exploitation of new insights is crucial to a company being able to innovate its processes, increase its efficiency, and bring new or improved products or services to market, implement a new degree of automation, transform business models and enhance customer experience.

The rapid pace of innovation requires companies to understand and leverage an ever-changing pool of business models and emerging technologies.

Innovation – it’s not rocket science. But innovative companies and scientists work together and win!

Successful innovation in the industry 4.0 requires a greater focus on fundamental sciences and the emerging technologies they support. There are several ways for business executives to create the right set of conditions and encourage a collaborative mindset. Building a ecosystem for innovation based on strategic partnerships means recognizing that the company doesn’t have the insights and skills to innovate and compete in the industry 4.0. Here I share some initial reflections from my work as a member of innovation boards with the ambition of prompting foresight for strategic innovation. Here are four areas of attention when companies want to foster an innovation ecosystem.

1. DISCOVER - Identify emerging trends, transformations and technologies

The innovation efforts won’t work if you don’t identify the new capabilities you need to discover the challenges and opportunities in the industry 4.0. Capabilities lie at the heart a company’s ability to innovate, so it’s hardly a surprise that discoveries in the complex world of the industry 4.0 require diversity and collaboration across capabilities.
 

For a company to build an ecosystem for innovation, it’s essential that the top management are obsessed with securing that the capabilities to discover the top trends and technologies with the biggest impact on the business are present in the company, and encouraging collaborations across the internal and external stakeholders.

In other words: discovering opportunities, securing the right capabilities and encouraging collaborations, are three crucial sets of actions for successful innovation.

  • Do the company understand the business’s current position and capabilities?

2. CAPTURE – Trading insights, ideas and know-how

Identify and create new sources of insights and value in new ways.

 

The value of trading scientific insights, ideas and know-how in an ecosystem is incredible. The new insights can lead companies to capture ideas and build solutions for fixing the biggest issues the company or industry face.

Implementing the ‘ecosystem thinking’ helps to unlock a rich, scaling spectrum of innovation outcomes.

  • What do leaders in the company need to do to help the organisation to capture and trade new insights?
  • What concrete activities will affect the success of the innovation efforts?

3. FRAMEWORK – Structure is the difference between failure and success

In order to succeed, a company need to elaborate and map the innovative objectives through a deep dive into the trends, technologies and transformation opportunities in the industry. Filtering trends and technologies is an essential part of the successful innovation. If a company don’t have a framework or prioritization of the “discoveries”, the company risk to be failing in their efforts.
 

Does the framework:

  • Give overall direction and overview? The framework should point out the overall path for the company’s innovation strategy.
  • Force the company to change the approach to collaboration and business development? Which of the insights, technologies and trends are most important to the success of tomorrow’s business?

4. REFINE – Unleashing the potential of the ecosystem for innovation

The innovation initiatives that need focus should be supported by the right incentives within the company. The organisation and the right external stakeholders need to work together in order to discover the opportunities for the company at the specific area and how to build new products, services or smarter processes. Executives should talk with stakeholders, including employees, customers, industry experts, start-ups and scientists, to challenge themselves about the company’s future.

In other words, ask yourself how an innovation ecosystem can lead your company to new business adventures and new value streams.

  • How are the company capitalizing on external innovation?
  • How do the company choose their organizational design to innovate better in collaboration with new business partners?
  • How do the business adapt to the speed of technology change?
  • How do you make those partnerships actually happen, to commercialize them for success?

Organizing for strategic innovation

If a company want to increase innovation, the company need to make sure they have the right people with the right skills. Many companies, especially SMEs, don’t have the innovation competencies today. An innovation board with internal and external members can be helpful for SMEs to think differently and approach business opportunities through a new lens.

If the company don’t have the innovation competencies today, it doesn’t mean that you can’t develop the internal resources for the future. Innovative companies across industries are trying to reorganize to move into new ways to do business.


The innovation board, as a business development body, should focus on the company’s innovation strategy and strategic goals. An effective innovation board has a clear understanding of its roles, goals and responsibilities. The innovation board has four areas of focus: scouting technologies, trends and transformations with an impact on the industry, increase innovation through new collaborations and ecosystem development, refining the initiatives and strategy. As the company move into a more collaborative culture, the organisation needs to simplify the ways people work together. Collaboration tools and platforms can support the innovation board’s needs for accelerate decision-making and streamline the innovation portfolio and time to market.
 

The innovation board must continually balance short- and long-term innovation objectives. The innovation board shall hold minimum four board meetings a year with a maximum gap of 90 days between two board meetings.

There is no one-size-fits-all innovation strategy, it will always be a process of failure and tests, and it will take time to design, develop and maintain an innovation ecosystem. But companies can’t afford not to be driven by curiosity and a collaborative mindset.

Innovation isn’t a static thing – it’s a journey. Enjoy your journey!