Bringing innovation from an idea to business takes skilled management and complementarity

Curious R&D teams often speak a bit different language than their colleagues in production and sales. These two groups of professionals are also motivated by different factors – and for a good reason. While the task of production and sales is to utilize well-known opportunities and solve known problems, R&D people are professionals in identifying unknown opportunities and defining poorly known problems. This is illustrated in Scheme 1. Said with a pinch of salt, research people get bored as soon as something is well known while their colleagues in production and sales find anything poorly known appalling. A hard fact is, though, that smooth transfer of an R&D project from the former to the latter is often a challenge to the management. A gap between these two groups can kill even a very potent innovation project. In innovation, market research is to to sales what product development is to production. While the need of good communication and close cooperation between these two lines is usually well recognized, the importance of closing the gap discussed in Scheme 1 often gets much less attention. KEY TO SUCCESS To overcome both of the abovementioned managerial challenges, it is important that representatives of production and sales are involved in an innovation project already in its early stage and that R&D people remain in the project team all the way until commercialization. Not only does such practice increase the success rate of individual innovation projects, but it is also excellent training for all participants. Training like this also promotes multidisciplinary skills and talents, thus increasing the company’s intellectual capital. A shared sense of complementarity...

Whether it’s innovation or an investment project, uncertainty and exposure don’t mix well.

As experienced project managers know so well, the key to bringing an industrial investment project successfully to its completion is that the level of uncertainty is brought to a low level before major capital expenditure. The more capital is invested in a project, the larger is the exposure to potential losses, e.g., in the case of delays or failures. This is illustrated in Scheme 1.   Of course, as managers of business operations know all too well, uncertainty in business is never quite at zero, and some risk is always present. Nevertheless, a smoothly operating industrial complex shall hold only a tiny fraction of the uncertainty that an early stage R&D project can happily host.     To be innovative, a company must manage development projects from their embryonic stage of high uncertainty to their commercial stage of high exposure.  Normally, however, such companies don’t have all the necessary expertise and capabilities within it’s own organization, but they use the services of selected partners, instead.   Curiosity for ideas and tolerance of their initial uncertainty is important to innovation, but even more important is the ability of bringing this high initial uncertainty down fast, cost efficiently and in an organized manner. Inability of doing this is the usual cause of failed innovation projects. Quoting Rainer Häggblom, Chairman in Vision Hunters Ltd., formed Chairman and CEO of Jaakko Pöyry Consulting Ltd. and a good friend of mine, “Innovation without commercialization is mere hallucination.”   SciTech-Service has a long history of serving its customers in bringing down uncertainty at all stages of innovation and investment projects (shown along the x-axis of...

How and why did non-printed digital media take over?

That the kingdom of media and communication is ruled by the digital is no news. Some 20 years ago it wasn’t news, yet, but a future vision. How and why did this revolution happen? To analyze this, it’s more useful to divide media into printed and non-printed categories, rather than into printed and digital. This is because the value chains of printed media were first digitalized – and gained hugely from that – and only later were they gradually taken over by the non-printed digital media. The progress of this revolution is illustrated in Scheme 1, where columns represent value-adding chains of media, proceeding from feed stock storage to final end-use – the reception of delivered knowledge by a human consumer. The field of knowledge, again, is divided into four segments; from the lowest value knowledge (data) to that of the highest value (understanding). In the case of understanding, absorption, rather that mere reception may be a more proper term for the end-user’s role.   Digital technology reduced the need of printing first in the upper-left corner of the matrix, i.e, in the beginning of media’s value chain and when data, the simplest form of knowledge was handled.  This started to happen already in the 1970’s, when, e.g., first digital cash registers and inventory systems were launched. (In Finland it was done by Nokia, when the company was still also making rubber boots and sneakers.). However, here the user interface is still usually a printed receipt. Gradually, as digital technologies developed, non-printed media started taking over all four value chains presented in Scheme 1. Today, the market share of...

Shall the gigantic subsidies to fossil fuels cease?

The “Polluter pays” principle is well and widely accepted among policy makers and industries. Applying this principle is the basis on which, e.g., modern waste management and recycling systems are successfully built – and the construction continues. The consumer is increasingly often put in the driver’s seat, when new waste minimization and recycling initiatives are introduced. Maybe the most striking exception to these practices is carbon dioxide from the use of fossil resources – primarily as fuels. Managing carbon dioxide waste by the same principles and practices would mean that the cost of removing carbon dioxide waste from the atmosphere should be added to the consumer prices of fossil fuels, and that the industry should arrange the removal. The same division of responsibilities would hereby be applied to CO2 recycling. Not applying the “polluter pays” principle and good waste management practice to carbon dioxide waste means a huge subsidy to fossil fuels. Based on the rough numbers available, the CO2 collection cost alone would add some 250$ to the price of an oil barrel. Incidentally, the cost of planting forest and growing a corresponding amount of wood to do the collection – and also the first step of recycling – is of similar magnitude. This translates into gigantic (actually even larger, “terantic” or trillions of dollars) annual subsidies to the use of fossil resources, globally. The fact that the subsidies given to the use of renewable fuels and power are marginal when compared to those poured to fossil fuels, doesn’t mean that subsidizing renewables is always a good idea. Subsidies tend to cause forgetfulness in critical thinking. When there...

Man-Made Cellulosic Conversion Fibre

The Finnish term for Man Made Cellulosic Fibre is ”Selluloosamuuntokuitu”, which better translates into ”Converted Cellulosic Fibre” or “Cellulosic Conversion Fibre”. Either way, it quite nicely describes the essence of viscose fibre and other regenerated cellulose fibres: In an industrial process, the natural cellulose polymer is converted from the form of fibre pulp into the form of textile filament and staple fibre. But there is much more to it. After the filament forming process, conversion continues into the form of either non-woven fabrics or into yarn spinning, dyeing and further into fabric forming by knitting or weaving. Fabrics, again, find their end-uses in numerous applications from technical textiles to branded fashion garments. After all these conversions, the humble fibre may have multiplied its initial value by a factor of several hundred. In this value-adding process, the next conversion step is always the immediate customer of the previous one, and the demanding end-user is the customer of all steps. Performing well in all these conversions and in the end-use application requires carefully defined features and properties of the fibre. Disappointing the customer – either the immediate or the final one – is costly. A strong combination of theoretical knowledge, experience and skill is required from the suppliers to this value chain with consistently well performing cellulosic fibre. In SciTech-Service, we strive to do our part in fulfilling this demand by providing our customers with the necessary expertise and related services. Our expertise extends from biomasses all the way to cellulosic textile fibres, and is supported by laboratories specially designed for trials in pulping, bleaching, viscose dope preparation and fibre spinning....