Collaboration the focus of Infraserv Höchst’s “perspectives 2016”: experts from different industries discuss “the new openness” in Germany’s chemical and pharmaceutical sector
How can companies promote a culture of innovation? What internal resistances and external barriers slow down the successful transformation of enterprises and business models? All these questions and more were discussed at “perspectives”, a premier event for the German chemical and pharmaceutical industry held by Infraserv Höchst at The Squaire at Frankfurt Airport. The event, themed “The new openness?”, revolved around finding new collaborative models for research, development, production and supply chain management. Around 180 visitors learned about real-life industry case studies, heard every one of the speakers express support for cross-company collaboration, and participated in a lively discussion. The presentations revealed large differences in the extent to which companies can and should open up, particularly to outside organizations.
Transformation processes are key focus of event series
Every “perspectives” session is about productively transforming chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Transformation processes are nothing new for Infraserv Höchst, being the operator of Europe’s largest chemical and pharmaceutical park. “We believe that, as a leading site developer and industrial service provider, we have a responsibility to provide a platform for discussing the future of Germany’s industrial sector,” said Jürgen Vormann, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Infraserv Höchst, who welcomed the participants along with Chief Operating Officer (COO) Joachim Kreysing. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution for transformation. And that’s why we invited speakers with different viewpoints to ‘perspectives’,” said Vormann. “The new openness” was chosen as this year’s theme based on presentations given in previous years. Moreover, openness is a vital issue for Infraserv Höchst, as Kreysing explained. “We work closely with our customers and assume responsibility for some very delicate processes. That requires openness on both sides and can often shift the boundaries between our organizations,” said Kreysing.
Insights from other industries
The new openness shifts and crosses boundaries. That is why Infraserv Höchst invited seasoned managers from other industries – automotive and electronics – to contribute different perspectives to the discussion. Fred van Ommen, former Senior Vice President Innovation at Philips and this year’s keynote speaker, emphasized the need to consider customers’ psychological drivers in innovations. New technologies require users to change their behaviors or attitudes. To illustrate his point, van Ommen cited a sobering example from his company’s own history: Everyone welcomes the installation of automatic defibrillators in public buildings. However, few people want to be reminded daily of a potential medical emergency in their own homes – even though that’s where most heart attacks strike. To avoid market flops, innovations have to start with what the customer wants. This approach can work in collaborative models without disclosing any business secrets. After all, you can define customer needs without sharing closely guarded technical knowledge.
Establishing an enduring innovation culture
Innovation needs supportive business models, according to Georg F. L. Wießmeier, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer (CTO) of the Sibelco Group. The internationally experienced innovation manager explained how his company was able to redefine its boundaries through organizational structures. Instead of simply ordering employees to be more open, Wießmeier views openness as a long-term management responsibility. Companies can’t establish sustainable innovation processes until they have eliminated silo mindsets and turf wars – the “imaginary walls” that separate departments and block the flow of ideas. The first step is to build trust through internal programs for innovation leaders. Next, companies can get the ball rolling by opening up, sharing their knowledge with customers and encouraging employees to draw on outside expertise.
Leaky funnel: a new research paradigm? Many research and development opportunities are overlooked when companies focus too much on established target markets, argued Willem Huisman, President of Dow Germany. Using a funnel, Huisman traced the various paths that a research idea can take. In a conventional funnel, an idea can only take one path: the one that leads to a predefined target market. If the funnel is filled with holes, however, it opens up brand-new paths – including shortcuts to alternative markets. For example, the R&D department can look into licensing opportunities early on.
Cooperation and confidentiality Close cooperation and strict confidentiality are often viewed as immiscible as oil and water. But that’s not always the case, explained Martin Wienkenhöver, Supervisory Board member at chemical company CABB. Confidentiality is critical at every tier when it comes to toll manufacturing for customers, particularly for exclusive syntheses. This is not the place for openness. Secondary processes, however, are a very different story. There is a long, successful tradition of handing off utilities, waste disposal, logistics and other non-core activities to industrial service providers such as Infraserv Höchst.
When transformations lead to spin-offs Spin-offs don’t just happen; they have to be planned and executed, said Klaus Jaeger, Manager of the North Rhine-Westphalia Site Network at Covestro. The former Bayer MaterialScience business implemented its spin-off and stock market flotation quickly – due in no small part to its excellent people. To accomplish this, though, the employees required transparency and openness about the company’s goals. For Jaeger, open internal and external communication is the secret to success in a market environment with accelerating product cycles.
Automotive industry start-ups:blessing or curse?
Can large corporations even come up with new ideas if start-ups create two-thirds of all market-changing innovations? This provocative question was asked by Matthias Meyer, founder of BMW Startup Garage. So are start-ups a blessing or a curse for big players? Meyer recommends a strategic partnership if the start-up’s success furthers your own business objectives. For example, electric cars are part of a carmaker’s core business. The development of a nationwide charging infrastructure, however, is not. Start-ups can drive car sales further if they develop parking infrastructure in cities such as New York where parking spaces cost more than leasing payments. The message at “perspectives” was clear: The new openness offers many opportunities to take business models to a new stage of development. Each situation has to be judged on its own merits, though. Clearly, the fourth installment of “perspectives” delivered on its promise to provide ideas, inspiration and perspectives on tackling challenges in change and innovation management. For more information and a short video of the event, visit www.infraserv.com/perspectives. The “perspectives” magazine will be published in January 2017 before the next “perspectives” sheds new light on transformation processes on June 29, 2017.
Frankfurt-based Infraserv Höchst is an operator of advanced technical infrastructure and a key partner for the chemical, pharmaceutical and related process industries.Infraserv Höchst leverages its experience and capabilities in site operation, management and consulting to deliver site excellence for its customers.The company, which operates sites such as Industriepark Höchst, provides utilities, waste management, logistics and site services.
The wholly owned subsidiaries in the Infraserv Höchst Group include Infraserv Logistics and Provadis.
Infraserv GmbH & Co. Höchst KG has around 1,800 employees and 132 trainees on its payroll.The Infraserv Höchst Group has around 2,500 employees and 162 trainees.Infraserv Höchst and its subsidiaries generated around EUR 1.2 billion in revenue in 2015.
Industriepark Höchst is home to around 90 companies in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, basic and specialty chemicals, crop protection, food additives and services.Some 22,000 people work at Industriepark Höchst.The site covers 460 hectares; 50 hectares are still vacant.The companies at the park invested around EUR 352 million in the site in 2015.Total investment since 2000 amounts to roughly EUR 6.65 billion.
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