Innovation has become a long-term driver of financial performance and value creation in the chemical industry, and it can provide enormous competitive advantage for companies. However, in a challenging business environment it is always difficult to find the resources and commitment for long-term and transformational innovation – especially for projects that pay off only after extended periods of research. We spoke to Professor Dr. Stefan Buchholz – Managing Director of Creavis – Evonik’s strategic innovation unit and a confirmed speaker of CIEX – Chemical Innovation Exchange 2017 about innovation.
How important are employees and cooperation for innovation?
The most crucial assets are both employees and an innovation culture that allows them to thrive. In 2016, approximately 8% of Evonik employees were working in R&D. We are dedicated to finding the right mix of people and skills. But we are also willing to invest fundamentally in the development and education of our people. Even so, no single company can harbour all the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly complex world. This is especially true at the fuzzy front end of innovation. One key point the attendees of CIEX 2017 will take from my presentation is that chemical innovation will increasingly require a company to master both the fuzzy, anarchical front end of ideation, and a tough, structured, persistent implementation toward business.
What is the relationship between R&D expenditure and new developments?
The chemical industry has historically been about material innovations – new products, new substances. But the world is changing with entire value chains moving or merging. Any successful approach to innovation needs to be open to all opportunities. Evonik invested EUR438 million in its R&D activities in 2016, a number that has increased by 4% per year since 2011. Creavis has a clear focus on transformational, mid- to long-term innovation. At the same time, all our innovation projects need to generate a positive impact not only to our balance sheets, but also to society and the environment.
What do you think your company should focus on next when it comes to innovation?
Four things: The ability to offer systems solutions when needed, a sound approach to digitalization, further focus on business model innovation, and the ongoing empowerment of our intrapreneurs.
CIEX 2017 will feature 25+ senior level speakers sharing real-life examples on how they turn the challenges of rapidly evolving chemical industry into opportunities. Our expert speakers will present leading practices and learnings gained from their daily quest for the effective execution of innovation processes.
Taking place in Frankfurt, Germany on September 19th and 20th, CIEX 2017 will present speakers including:
Hear what past delegates say about CIEX: