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Innovations create more than just business growth for individual companies – they also provide important stimuli for entire sectors and they change and shape various aspects of life. The following recipients of the “Gold” distinction at the German Innovation Awards 2020 talk to us about their award-winning projects from the office, pharmaceuticals and energy sectors.

Packaging innovation trend

Everic Vials (SCHOTT AG)

Gold winner, German Innovation Awards 2020 “Excellence in Business to Business – Pharmaceuticals”

SCHOTT presents a new solution for pharmaceutical vials: Everic vials are a modular system that allows customers to choose the best properties for their medication. The concept was developed for the growing market of sensitive biologic drugs and personalised medicine in genetic and cancer research.

Short interview with Florence Buscke, Global Product Manager Vials at Schott

What prompted the development of the Everic vials?

The market for pharmaceuticals is currently in a phase of development, and by examining it, we found that over two-thirds of new drugs are no longer purely chemically derived – instead, they are increasingly becoming biologically derived. This leads to individual requirements from customers and the market, in particular with regard to the packaging of liquid drugs. The growing trend for personalised medicine is also reflecting this trajectory.

This necessitated a rethink of our product portfolio logic and our product development. The result was the basic idea of offering a product that meets a wide range of requirements through the use of modular product characteristics – with reasonable costs and without changing the packaging so much that the drug maker has to undergo a costly re-registration process for drugs that have already been registered. We are thus enabling the drugs to reach the market sooner and ensuring safe delivery to the people who need the medication most: our patients.

What did the development process look like?

The development process was relatively complex as we needed to optimise or replace the glass tube and the chemical, geometric and physical properties of the pharmaceutical vial. On top of this, for each of the properties we also needed to evaluate and validate the effectiveness of each useful combination of the different properties. Various machine tests, chemical tests and long-term studies also needed to be conducted to ensure that none of the innovations have a negative influence on the effectiveness of the drugs or on patient safety.

We unveiled our first module to the public in 2018. The sampling checks and first tests on filling machines in real production conditions with drug makers around the world are currently under way for the other modules, which should reach the industry by the end of 2020.

What specific benefits do the Everic vials offer users?

This product’s particular benefit is its modularity, with equal consideration given to customer requirements and patient needs during product development. Two key market drivers are therefore fulfilled in one product. Firstly, the market gains a product that offers modular configuration to suit the particular drug without impacting safety for the patient. This makes the product a perfect fit for a very wide range of uses – from vaccines, cancer treatments and immunotherapy to cell and gene therapies.

Secondly, the product meets the current demands for further optimisation of an efficient production process. To achieve efficient processing, the geometries are optimised in line with the ISO standards and the external surfaces of the glass are protected with a coating to greatly reduce the risk of glass breakage and cosmetic glass defects throughout the value chain.

Innovation culture trend

Innovation Culture Toolkit (SAP SE)

Gold winner, German Innovation Awards 2020 “Excellence in Business to Business – Office Solutions”

To help companies establish a culture that is open to innovation, the SAP AppHaus team designed a framework consisting of five interconnected components: People, Process, Place, Leadership and Technology. The Innovation Culture Toolkit contains ready-to-use tools and templates that can be downloaded to help build a global network of innovative change-makers beyond company boundaries.

Short interview with Anja Schneider, Senior Vice President & Global Head of Customer Innovation at SAP

What prompted the development of the Innovation Culture Toolkit?

Whilst working on innovation projects with customers over the years, we found that similar problems kept cropping up – completely regardless of a company’s size, sector or nationality. For instance, most of our workshop participants found it very difficult to visualise a complex business process because they didn’t have any design skills or couldn’t draw.

This is what gave rise to our Scenes method, which can be used to visualise problems, procedures, business processes and more – in a simplified analogue or digital format using ready-made design elements and figures. The SAP AppHaus team continued in the same vein to gradually develop one method after the other. These were first rolled out within the global AppHaus team in order to improve the efficiency and success of our own projects with customers. We then started to find that our customers were coming to us more and more for support with holistically and sustainably embedding innovation in their own companies, too.

We therefore developed how we were working and what we were offering – moving away from a project-based implementation of innovation and towards support for customers as they transformed themselves into having a more innovative corporate culture. We developed a framework for innovation culture based on the five pillars of People, Process, Place, Leadership and Technology, which offers guidance for companies as they undergo the holistic process of change on the road to more organic innovation. To enable companies to continue to drive innovation without our support in the longer term, the SAP AppHaus team ultimately came up with the idea of bringing together our accumulated experience, tools and methods to create a comprehensive Innovation Culture Toolkit.

What did the development process look like?

The first version of the Innovation Culture Toolkit took three years to create – but it is a toolkit that is constantly changing and is regularly updated with new tools and methods based on our experiences in customer projects.

Why did it take three years to complete the first stage?

First of all, we had to develop and refine the individual tools and methods that would be put together in the toolkit. During this phase, our team repeatedly used, tested and optimised the individual tools and methods in different innovation projects. The challenge was to design the contents of the toolkit so that they make it easy for beginners to understand when the best time is to use the various methods and tools in the innovation cycle. And the development process is not over for us; we continue to work on new methods and tools to integrate into our Innovation Culture Toolkit.

What specific benefits does the Innovation Culture Toolkit offer users?

Our Innovation Culture Toolkit gives companies helpful and easy-to-understand methods and resources to actively establish a holistic culture of innovation within their own organisations. Our SAP AppHaus team has learned from many years of working directly with customers that a culture of innovation can only be created when the People, Process, Place, Leadership and Technology components work well together. We want to share this knowledge and our methods in order to build a global network of innovative change-makers beyond the limits of our company.

We are convinced that a holistic understanding of innovation based on people’s needs is fundamental in dealing with the global challenges of the future. We see our Innovation Culture Toolkit as playing a small part in helping to spread this way of thinking and working. Whereas competitors such as IDEO and IBM share online material and courses on individual topics such as design thinking and innovation, we are offering tools and methods we have developed ourselves, together with a how-to guide so that other companies and organisations can largely make direct use of these themselves.

Energy revolution trend

Master+ UPS battery system (RWE Supply & Trading GmbH)

Gold winner, German Innovation Awards 2020 “Excellence in Business to Business – Energy Solutions”

RWE’s new Master+ UPS battery system allows data centres to participate in the energy market, with the additional capacity of the UPS battery being used for grid services. The data centre operator benefits from an investment subsidy, a higher-quality battery system with a longer backup time, the possibility of predictive maintenance, and a multi-year warranty on the battery.

Short interview with Dr Hans-Günter Schwarz, Head of Commercial Battery Solutions at RWE Supply & Trading

What prompted the development of the Master+ UPS battery system?

Around five years ago, it was becoming increasingly clear that batteries could be the perfect partner for the transition to low-carbon energy. They are able to deliver and receive large amounts of power instantly, which makes them ideal for grid balancing. Our innovation started with the question of where there were batteries in our company that we could potentially also use for energy market purposes. Our aim was to find a sustainable and efficient solution for battery applications through the multi-use of batteries.

We found what we were looking for in one of our former data centres at our Essen site, which had UPS batteries. Our initial investigations showed that the existing redundancies in the power supply would in principle allow the battery capacities to be used for the energy market. It later turned out that the batteries were too small and were unsuitable for energy market purposes as the existing UPS system was outdated in many ways, but the idea was born nevertheless. So we got started.

What did the development process look like?

It involved many small and large steps and took a little luck to make our idea into an innovation. Right from the start we had the full backing of our management team, which was always – and continues to be – convinced of the potential of this innovation. RWE is an energy supplier but we are not a UPS manufacturer, so we had to look for suitable industry partners. We found just such a partner in the form of the company Riello Power Systems, which had recently launched a UPS with an IGBT rectifier (and thus the option to feed power back into the grid) with its Master HE series. This UPS was perfect for our plans.

The collaboration with Riello was highly professional. The changes that had to be made to the UPS primarily affected the firmware. New operating modes needed to be created and tested. The specially developed control system connects the battery and UPS to the outside world via remote control technology and thus allows the UPS battery to be used for energy market purposes. There were (surprisingly) no major technical problems. In fact, the biggest challenges are posed by the many and varied regulatory changes and reforms that mean that the technical solution has to be constantly adjusted.

What specific benefits does the Master+ offer users?

The Master+ system has benefits for the customer and for the energy revolution in general. The customer gains a more reliable power supply, whilst also reducing costs. Among other things, the battery capacity is also used to balance out the fluctuating levels of renewable energy being fed into the public power grid. The Master+ system has already gone live. We started operating a pilot system in Essen in 2018 and another one in the UK in 2019 and have been able to test these extensively. The system is currently being used by its first customer.

The German Innovation Awards are an international competition held annually by the German Design Council. The call for entries for the 2021 awards opens on 12 October 2020.

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