Breakthrough innovation in 2016

At Innovia we’re looking forward to an exciting year in breakthrough innovation and in this article take a brief look at some of the directions it might take. With over 100 blue chip clients, we have the privilege of feeling the pulse of innovation in many different sectors.

Behaving and misbehaving

Our new behavioural science team is finding that its discipline – which has scored notable successes in the public sector – can create substantial innovation in the private sector. A strong theoretical understanding of why people (mis)behave in the ways they do has helped on diverse projects, ranging from improving compliance with medication, to how we shave, to orchestrating aircraft boarding – we’ve even looked at the behaviours that drive successful innovation in R&D. Curiously, manufacturing professionals have yet to make much use of behavioural science insights, but it’s easy to see the future wins for manufacturing productivity and Health and Safety.

Behavioural science is a close bedfellow of design thinking, which focuses on the journey the user takes as they interact with a product or service, and the experience in doing so. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the design of surgical tools that bridge the world of the artisan and the precision engineer working with advanced sensing and actuation. Design thinking can also star in innovation for everyday products, such as skin moisturiser – there is plenty of opportunity to get better results by making their use more intuitive and convenient.

Making sustainability work

Across the spectrum of our work, companies are expected to take responsibility for broader consequences of their behaviour and choices. Sustainability is therefore not ‘old hat’; quite the contrary, companies one after another are embracing it as a positive business driver. Groundbreaking work on The Ray, the World’s Greenest Highway, shows the possibilities for sustainable road transport. The Apparel Sector also seems to have had an epiphany; leading brands recognise that today’s extended and fragmented supply chains demand breakthrough innovation: from new choices of materials and chemicals, to better traceability, to ensuring recycling and re-use at end of product life. After the COP21 climate change talks in Paris, businesses seem likely to pursue carbon footprint reduction with renewed vigour, and also the innovations needed to help societies adapt to a new climate set point.

Big data, big knowledge

It’s no news that applications for big data are growing at a fast pace as companies use it to find new ways of creating value and opportunity. Innovia’s scientists have always held data at the heart of their discipline, and now data science has become a new discipline in its own right: people need new tools to help them to navigate and interact with complex data spaces. These spaces can be so rich that it’s often more about experiencing than analysis. A case in point is Ambient Intelligence, which has moved from high tech simulators and gaming to everyday shopping centres and transportation facilities that provide torrents of multivariate data. Working closely with Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, Innovia has developed a model to help companies make the most of big data and to draw out subtle and sometimes surprising insights. In 2016, we’re looking forward to launching an interactive platform called the Ambient Intelligence Canvas. 

Corporate knowledge networks are flourishing with ever-greater connectivity and an increasing amount of external talent to be tapped. There’s still work to be done qualifying connections and building relationships, as highlighted by Innovia’s work facilitating industry university collaboration. Although we love social media’s algorithms to automate connection and suggest mutual interests, face-to-face interaction comes first when accelerating innovation, as we find in traditional learning exchanges and. Straightforward networking also matters. In 2016 we’re looking forward to meeting many innovation professionals at conferences, corporate events and trade shows to exchange views on the ever-changing kaleidoscope of breakthrough innovation.

Solving impossible problems

Companies rightly leave most of the science research to universities, but still find it important to reach for fundamental science in order to unlock a tough innovation challenge. Step change in the formulation of mass consumer products, fuels, food or pharma often requires such a reach. System designs span length scales from nanometres to millimetres and require holistic understanding of many different specialisms – colloids, foams, rheology, enzymes, sensory science and manufacturing engineering, to name a few. Increasingly, we’re finding companies are recognising this and bringing together the range of internal and external skills needed to make the difference. As an example, we’ve been looking at how to make diesel burn better, a topic that has drawn media attention following disclosures that today’s cars might be more polluting than originally thought. Better fuels will pave the way to a future with greater freedom at lower cost to society and the environment – innovation we can all be proud of.

Wishing your innovation teams great success and excitement in 2016.