„We can’t have all the ideas ourselves.”
Dr. Harald Büttner, Head of Technology Scouting at Beiersdorf AG, depends on open innovation. That enables his company to build on its suppliers’ know-how and learn from other sectors — such as the construction industry.
Herr Büttner, what was the last place where you looked for new ideas?
I’ve just come back from a congress and trade fair in Japan that focused on fermentative production processes and the related raw materials and products. The Japanese and the Koreans are traditionally strong in this area, and I’m convinced that it will become important for our sector.
How important is open innovation for Beiersdorf, and why?
We can’t have all the ideas ourselves. It’s extremely worthwhile to screen technologies from a very wide spectrum — including companies outside the cosmetics sector.
Can you give us an example?
Think about the problem of finding substitutes for aluminum in anti-perspirants. The main question is how we can block the sweat glands. It might be useful to examine how other sectors deal with fine pores and capillaries. For example, what are construction companies and paint producers doing in this area? Can we learn anything from them?
What are you looking for via your open innovation platform Trusted Network?
We are turning to our registered partners with very specific questions. These partners include universities and research institutes, as well as individuals and our suppliers. But Trusted Network is only one of the many channels we use.
Is this a new phenomenon in the sector?
Today almost all of our competitors are doing that in various ways. However, our sector as a whole has been slower on the uptake than other sectors. For a long time, it was dominated by a certain degree of secretiveness, because our know-how is extremely valuable and the entry barriers are relatively low.
What key factors are needed for open innovation to work?
You need absolutely trusting cooperation. We’ve had that kind of cooperation with Evonik for decades.
Don’t you have any worries about suppliers gathering more and more know-how about your business operations?
No. After all, we benefit from the fact that suppliers come to us with market-ready ideas to which we can apply our own know-how. That’s how differentiation and new product attributes are generated for our customers. And of course we have our world-renowned brand portfolio, with Nivea in the forefront.
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