I was delighted to be invited onto a panel with GE at their R&D centre in Munich this week. Dubbed “Innovation Breakthroughs – Igniting Europe’s Growth” They were celebrating 10 years of theopening of the centre and as you arrived, you saw the cranes at work to double the facility as well as further deepen their commitments within the surrounding community even further.
One such community success story has been the co-location they have with the Technical University of Munich (TUM), where both have evolved to share a real philosophy of creating new knowledge and make it available for the industrial innovation process through this partnership. They combine in a number of “sweet spots” or research domains, that move the academic creative contributions of science into the industrial researchers alongside, working to advance products, bringing these concepts to commercial fruition.
The event also combine with the announcement of Euro €18.5 Million in New Research Program Funding announced as GE Marks the 10th Anniversary of its Global Research Centre in Europe with its university partners. A futher community commitment.
I have always liked to read with interest this set of Barometer insights, and have enjoyed commenting upon (here for example) the results that are published each year. The GE Innovation Barometer I think really does offer valuable insights of innovation thinking by over 3,000 leaders in larger business organizations. It offers good insights into the inner thinking about innovation that has practical implications.
A quick tour of the R&D facilities reveals much about a company
While I was there, I was lucky enough to take a “quick” tour of the GE facility after my small contribution into a fascinating set of debates earlier in the day. I can honestly state the passion, commitment and sense of pride in all the researchers I meet was impressive. It goes way, way beyond putting on a positive spin to the visitor, it is a deep desire and I think a real motivation to push advancement.
Before I went to Munich I really got caught up in GE and its evolving story.
From the outside looking into GE I had felt it was evolving but I was not able to get ‘under the hood’ and see the ‘powerful forces’ that seem to be at work. This event helped trigger that growing awareness and brought it significantly to life for me.
GE often use an awful lot of ‘convening words’ that make you curious to connect into their technologies, their industry areas and explain how and where these are evolving. I think this thinking has been ‘cranking up’ significantly in the past couple of years, and for good reasons. GE has a good evolving story to tell.
Included in their portfolio are some of the essential aspects of our lives, they connect us, connect enterprises and advance many things and reshape the future. When you here about “mapped minds”, “brilliant factories”, “extreme machines”, “energy everywhere”, “super materials” and finally their take of the “industrial internet” it confronts you. That was how I felt when I walked through the doors into their lobby area.
For me it was going to be a promising day.
Irrespective of how or where I could contribute, I knew I was going to learn a lot from the event. As it turned out the panel I was invited upon became fairly lively. I had the pleasure of being on a panel that included Mark Little, the Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Office for GE, Jean Botti, the Chief Technical and Innovation Officer for the Airbus Group and Christian Cahn von Seelen, the Head of Corporate Strategy, China and India Business at Skoda Auto.
The audience ranged from politicians, and senior representatives across industry, research institutions and health and the Q & A I felt could have gone on and on, debating Europe’s innovating future. We simply touched the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as there are equally dangers lurking not just under the surface as complex problems to tackle.
Yet equally, such a positive mass of deep knowledge, real tangible successes and high absorption of learning across Europe, all needs to be picked apart, mapped out and reconnected in new ways, does provide the promising future in innovative ways to get Europe moving again, in growth, jobs and unified commitments. I only wish it was less left in Politicans and Bureacratic hands and our instritutions and business leaders were more deeply involved in shaping the process, not just lobbying for their specific part.
Plenty of pride, some angst.
Sitting in Germany you can always ‘feel’ that real pride, a clear determination and belief in the achievements made and plenty yet to come- Equally you know what will be delivered in much of the approaches can be summarized as making connected sense. Sometimes the rest of Europe does seem to want to ‘pull’ in other ways and that is hard to understand from a German’s perspective. This is part of ‘our’ creative tensions in Europe to be bridged.
It is part of the challenges we face in Europe, connecting all the diversity and opinions of 28 countries to get growth and a real momentum within the European economy going again. Debating the required innovation fits across Europe is complex and challenging.
What I liked in my visit was a reminder that if you combine much that is good from one culture and fuse it in thoughtful ways that capitalise on the diversity of the other or across many, you can really see tangible results. Collaborating on big challenges would be one ‘unifier’.
I think the combination of the fusion of the mindsets of an American company that believes it is a scale-based entrepreneur organization, managing in complicated technologies and ‘big things’ and a collection of bright researching minds, all drawn from not just across Europe but many part of the world, sitting next to a university (TUM) that are plugging into the German way of doing things is a good example of this collaborating across big challenges.
Of course, managing in complex situations across cultures can be frustrating but this host of ‘connected points’ strikes me to be a winning formula. Of course in GE’s case, you throw in the connected nine Global Research centres you certainly ‘sense’ this motion towards an accelerating future within GE. 2,000 scientists and engineers and 50,000 technologists. It can make you pause for breath, it’s simply impressive, and ‘living proof’ of connecting minds, knowledge, cultures with machines on how it can generate results that are advancing on what we know today in significant ways.
Then we have the wave of connecting minds and machines.
Mark Little the Chief Technology Officer for GE was heading out of the door early afternoon to catch the flight to get him back to GE’s next event, of connecting minds and machines being held the next day. Now this promises a different, potentially radical new future in industry and GE are placing a lot of resource and commitments into it.
GE are taking a real lead here. In the last three years they have been ramping up their thinking, dubbed “the industrial internet” and moving into the power of connected industrial assets (the machines) through embedding sensor technology everywhere on the machine, bringing back its data from oftem hostile environments and through the analytics applied can turn this into ‘intelligent information.’ This offers the potential of real-time decision making, delivering required and necessary insights at the right time, to the operators and business decision makers so as to manage that dreaded aspect all industries fear of “downtime” better. It also allows for managing more efficiently and effectively the assets.
Already I gather GE has put over £1 billion into this potential game changing move to transform industry. CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt’s opening to this event with his headline view: “if you went to bed last night as an Industrial company, you are going to wake up in the morning as a software and analytical company” where the separation between data and industry has vanished. Does this change the business model, I think so.
Of course Jeff Immelt is saying this, he runs a “big bets company” and they are setting about transforming industry for competitive advantage. Yet again though, it is the way they seem to be setting about it that makes you feel it is happening and shifting the dynamics of big asset business, in significant ways.
Platforms, Partnerships and the Ecosystem
I strongly believe the future of collaboration is going to be based around platforms and ecosystems, where you bring together the minds and the business interest, gathered around specific but complex issues to solve. GE are working on delivering this.
Through their platform of Predix, GE are providing “industrial-strength software and analytics” and spoke of having 40 apps ready for customer use today at this event. They are also throwing open the platform for others to use, build and develop their apps. GE will offer the backbone, architecture, resilience, and security for others to come onto this platform with growing confidence and work towards ‘apps’ that are even more tailor-specific to their needs beyond ‘just’ sensors.
The partners already working with delivering from this platform are Cisco, Intel and Accenture and GE’s investment in Pivotal, will mean the amount of time GE executives will be spending in San Francisco building the resources behind this is a space worth following.
I gather they have 800 data scientists and GE are on a further massive recruit to ramp this up, well over doubling this in the region, to attract and blend the best in talent, software and analytics. I also gathered they have been but recruiting the ‘forty something’ person as well for their business experience, as they sit down and work through issue upon issue with their customers.
It is clearly evolving at some speed, GE are delivering the Medici Effect of breakthrough insights at the intersections of ideas, concepts and cultures. as our world becomes more intersectional when we merge one field into a new, unfamiliar territory for these radical changes in how we will manage in the future.
The combinations of smart machines, enabling technologies, big data modelling and analytics and determining the customer outcomes in increasing collaborations, will radically alter the Business Model of GE in future years, in ways that we yet can’t imagine.
As I left the R&D centre in Munich
As I look up at the crane as I left and saw the shell of the additional building going up in Munich, I can imagine that science, research and technology will fuse in ways that we are only beginning to grasp. I wonder what type of mix of skills that group of future employees will have, far more a blend, perhaps more broad set, rather than one that is deep only.
We will be seeing software services, a changing portfolio strategy and GE’s scientists, researchers and engineers all managing not just in their deep domains of knowledge but broadening out into far greater engagements alongside customers. It alters and unleashes.
Combining in future ways with the chosen universities, institutions and partners, increasing working through and on these platforms. where collaboration and co-creation will move way beyond today’s open innovation concepts, focusing on bringing ‘synergies’ that deliver those vital winning outcomes.
The future era of innovation suddenly looks even brighter.
So those Asset-intensive industries that are looking to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and search to unlock new sources of customer value, are moving into a ‘connected realisation’ that will bring the industrial internet into increasing focus. It will sit alongside the social side, where the internet of things (IoT) has been making most of the running to date, encrouching far more of our business and personal lives.
The promise of deep, lasting connections and relationships all seem to be offering innovation in a new era of prosperity, were connected enterprise and the connected world come together with very different business models, built on this ‘promise’ of platforms and ecosystems, delivering in very tangible ways through a collaborative common cause.
A place where “Everything connects,” a book written recently by Faisel Hoque, is suggesting where people, insights, capital, infrastructure and ecosystems combine. One where the age of creativity, innovation and sustainability come together as the needed skills required to be continually adaptive.
I’m all for that era. We are at perhaps an infliction point on the way we are thinking, managing, and collaborating in a connected universe for new growth possibilities. I’d like to believe so and from what I can see, GE are well on their way in working this out in their own, highly focused way.