What led you into working with innovation?
My background is in industrial engineering, and I have been working with innovation at Iturri since January 2019. I started working for Iturri in 2013 and have had positions in the business lines. The role of Head of Innovation is quite new to me. I am currently focusing on getting educated in this field. Having worked with water supply, energy efficiency and energy management previously, I have a natural focus on how to do things differently, and I have a curious mindset that always questions how we can do better. Also, being young and new to the role, I have a fresh view on things and an ability to challenge the existing way of doing things.
What does a typical day look like?
My role is to scout for new ideas externally to apply internally. In other words, I help bridge the realities of business and research. To help do this, we have a partnership with Frauenhofer. They have the know-how and technologies from other fields. My target is to find out in what other fields from our businesses we can apply these new technologies. We do not do basic research but focus on applied research instead.
Another part of my work is to establish connections with people internally, to get more people involved in innovation.
By combining technologies from different fields: a radar to capture movement in the chest and breathing rate together with a measurement of fever enabled us to develop a much more accurate corona detecting device.
Which challenges in relation to innovation do you face at your company?
The main challenge for me right now is the fact that we have so many product categories – they all represent different industries, requiring different approaches and different technologies. Each industry has a different challenge. A big one right now is the circular economy, and we are working on how to integrate that.
Another challenge that we are working with continuously is how we can boost innovation and engage more people to get value from our innovation efforts. I am very focused on getting more people involved in our innovation processes. We have many people with much knowledge and know-how, but the challenge is to put this into play in the right context, making it available to the rest of the organization.
We need to understand our customers, how they work and what is important to them.
Can you share a recent success story?
We have a quite good success story from our trial campaign, focusing on the corona crisis. By combining technologies from different fields: a radar to capture movement in the chest and breathing rate together with a measurement of fever enabled us to develop a much more accurate corona detecting device. The campaign helped us to identify the problem, the current inaccuracy of detectors. Through the partnership with Frauenhofer we identified the idea of integrating the radar. It was a huge success for us – the product and the proof that the campaign process works.
What is one thing about innovation that you think is important?
For people who work with innovation, the best advice is to understand the necessity of our customers. There is no innovation without a problem – we need to understand our customers, how they work and what is important to them. Not necessarily what they say they need, but what we can predict they will need. We always need to be a step ahead and try to predict future needs.