Dec 22, 2022

Ingredients for innovations

Tuomo Anttila
Tuomo Anttila
Manager, Intellectual Property Rights, Flow Control Business Line

The idea for innovation can be born anytime anywhere. That is the most said sentence when asked whether there needs to be a special time of date or a specific place to come up with new prosperous ideas for R&D to take further. Indeed, here at Valmet’s Flow Control Business Line we have witnessed a blooming innovation culture, as every six months we have new invention disclosures to celebrate on, leading also to new patents. I think there is not any special secret behind a prosperous innovation culture, instead that is a permanent part of everyday work life, that needs just a little bit of a reminding.

Valves in petrochemical plant

In the light of this, in 2019 we started to measure innovation climate in the former Metso’s Valve Technologies Business Area. Non-monetary work recognition and organizations’ playfulness were seen as dimensions of innovation culture among the other things. At the time, we had already identified a need to communicate more about innovation in general, and I started to think that by combining these three topics; non-monetary work recognition, organizations’ playfulness and communications about innovation, we might give credit to and celebrate with our valued inventors in a relaxed mood and draw attention of a wider audience to innovation through intranet. I came up with an idea of Innovation Champions with their colored Innovation Champion coffee mugs based on their contribution (colors borrowed from the martial arts). The idea from the beginning was that in order to become a returning inventor inventing something big, you probably need to be a first-timer inventing something smaller first. Thus, Innovation Champions grading system was scaled so that in the beginning of the journey, the champions advance faster, and we have reason to celebrate more often and the higher one goes the harder the requirements become. The program was kicked off in January 2020, and today we have over 160 Innovation Champions in Flow Control Business Line.

With this program we aim to create more visibility towards innovations and inventors. Everyone can be an Innovation Champion, and that is the message that we are constantly conveying further.

Within this program, employee inventors are being recognized with standard remunerations, and they will be awarded Innovation Champion Certificates and colored Innovation Champion coffee mugs based on their contribution.

Key figures for innovations

Ultimately, the success will of course be measured in customer and Valmet value that we will be able to generate in the long run. But already now we have seen many good inventions that have a great potential to become future innovations, I mean implemented inventions that generate substantial value to the company. From innovation climate point, I think it is already now evident that the program has been successful. The year 2022 will be the third consecutive year of 20+ % increase in number of received inventions. This year will be the second year ever when we have received inventions from six countries having dedicated innovation climate owners in local RTD sites, and since January 2019 we have seen 78 newcomers who are now familiar with the process when the next eureka! moment comes (many have already got it).

Why this program has been so successful, I’d say: the people. First of all, the program would not be anything without such a good buy-in from the participants. After the last events in this fall, it has been delightful to see how the program has taken a life of its own e.g. in LinkedIn – spreading the positive vibes about the innovation culture in Valmet! I am also very grateful to our management who has shown good commitment to and presence in the program from the beginning. And, last but not least, I would like to thank people taking care of the communication or several persons organizing the local events in different locations.

Innovation as a state-of-mind

When discussed with the recently awarded Innovation Champion Marko Rissanen, Product Manager, about his views on different ingredients for innovations, he underlined the importance of teamwork. Oftentimes, the idea gets a fast track to success when it is being discussed with colleagues for a wider view and recommendations. I fully agree with Marko that the power of a teamwork often brings the needed spark to the idea, which might touch base on how things or tasks can be done better, easier or in a safer way. Our innovations also focus on solving customer problems.

One could say that the common nominator for creating inventions is the problem-solving. The idea can be reached through solving a customer problem or internally to make e.g. a product more easy to manufacture, assemble or service or more.

That said, we live and breathe innovations every day.

 

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