The Inventors Day, on 9th of November, focuses on those people whose ideas keep humanity moving forward and improve everyone’s lives. It’s all about inventive spirit. And companies are among the inventors who have made the greatest contributions to society. To a large degree, sustainability is dependent on their capacity for innovation. We look at how Greiner has turned a pioneering spirit into part of the group’s DNA and what we can learn from it.
9 November was the birthday of Hedy Lamarr, the Austro-American inventor and successful Hollywood actress who in 1942 developed a radio-guidance system for torpedoes. Her frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology went on to pave the way for Bluetooth connections and GSM telecommunications. Her story illustrates that an innovative spirit could be burning within any one of us. So it’s important to promote talent, skills and frameworks that spark a passion for innovation among employees.
Sustainability driven by inventive talent
Consumers have long since grasped that sustainability is not a fleeting trend, but an integral part of our future and our prosperity. Especially in the past few years, there has been strong consumer demand for increasingly sustainable products. Consumers’ key concerns include minimising a product’s environmental footprint, and more generally ensuring that ecological, social and economic factors are considered from the outset. Take packaging: it is considered to be sustainable if, for example, it is made from recycled material, it ensures that the contents will stay fresh for longer, it is sterile, requires only a small amount of material to make, and can itself be recycled. Not least, products should be manufactured under ethically acceptable conditions. All of these aspects must be taken into account. And product designers and inventors need to address such issues day in, day out.
Ecodesign promotes environmental protection and resource conservation
Ecodesign is a matter of looking at a product in terms of its environmental impact throughout its life cycle. It is not enough if a plastic cup can be produced using only a small amount of material; production of the necessary raw materials and the cup’s recyclability also have to be optimised. Developing such products requires strong commitment by businesses, as well as outstanding employees. Greiner has decided that every single one of its products must demonstrate that it can deliver long-term benefits.
Each and every member of the group is expected to adhere to this principle. For example, Greiner has set specific sustainability targets for the entire group. But we can only achieve these with products that have the necessary sustainability characteristics. In order to minimise their ecological footprint, it is important to integrate a shared understanding of the concept of sustainability into all product innovation processes. This does not simply mean looking at new products from this particular perspective; it is also a question of critically analysing existing products.
Space for new ideas: the Greiner Innovation Community
How can we bring together all the ideas of our people across the group? How can we make sure that we capitalise on the knowledge and abilities of all of our employees? Inventions do not take shape in a vacuum – instead they feed off co-creation and the integration of different experiences, viewpoints and, not least, the necessary resources. Innovation needs space, which is why in 2014 Greiner decided to establish a digital idea management platform: the Greiner Innovation Community, where all employees can submit their ideas and present them online.
The aim is to collect ideas, and discuss and fine-tune them with inputs from across the various divisions and locations. This helps us to nurture a spirit of innovation throughout the group and ensure that we are all pulling in the same direction as we head into the future. A transparent evaluation process based on specifically defined criteria such as sustainability, market attractiveness and differentiation potential ensure that the best projects are ultimately implemented. Products created in this way also receive a Greiner Idea Award in recognition of the inventiveness behind them.
Our goal is to make innovation a permanent component of Greiner’s DNA, which is why we present the Innovation Award, as well as a prize for the most promising research and development project, and an award for the most successful innovation at the group. In 2018 we also adopted an open innovation approach. During a 48-hour ideation hackathon, exciting new ideas for business models related to plastics with printed electronics were developed.
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