TechConnect speaks with Anne Berthereau, VP, Emerging Technologies, at Owens Corning about the company's technology and investment areas of interest.
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?Our primary interests are as follows: 1) Advanced materials : Owens Corning has three market-leading businesses supplying fiberglass composites, insulation, and shingles and related components. Consequently, we are interested in any advanced materials solutions that would deliver superior mechanical, electrical, thermal/acoustic insulating, or waterproofing properties. 2) Bio based chemistry : Our commitment to sustainability and preserving natural resources drives us to develop bio based solutions. We are constantly looking for new bio based chemistries or bio degradable solutions. Our purpose at Owens Corning is simple: Our people and products make the world a better place. New enabling technologies and chemistries will help us achieve this purpose. (3) Smart manufacturing technologies : To raise the performance of our operations to a new level, it is critical to identify new enabling technologies, such as advanced process controls for better product quality, traceability and higher efficiency. Our safety and continuous improvement teams also rely on new technologies that, for instance, will minimize human intervention during maintenance or train through a virtual system. Additive manufacturing also opens the door for continuous improvement through quick prototyping.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?Technology partnership is a path to accelerate product development and commercialization. To that end, we seek technologies in TRL 4-7. This means they are already validated in the lab and are ideally proven at the pilot scale. We could explore more early stage technologies (TRL 3) by relying on well established national labs. In the case of TRL4, our Owens Corning network of R&D centers could enable quicker pilot scale evaluation while accelerating commercialization by leveraging our network of existing customers and our deep market understanding.
Please describe your company’s Innovation model and how this model helps to find new innovations.At Owens Corning, for incremental Innovation, our model is the classic, linear stage-gate approach. For us, it is a proven, successful process for short-term product innovation based on clearly articulated customer needs. To drive growth at the next level, our company developed what we call a growth mindset model based on creative ideation, evaluation and action. For Innovation, this growth mindset model translates into a spiral approach. It is all about dealing with uncertainties in an iterative way. It starts by framing emerging business opportunities (based on certain assumptions) using a “new-to-Owens Corning” technology/business model. Then, the assumptions are validated through quick prototyping. Every 90 days, productive learnings are extracted and submitted to a growth board. It is a spiral model as the development team is expected to refine learnings to reach the right decision point to sunset or grow the program. Success here will come from a company’s ability to quickly identify and leverage the right external technology partners to de-risk the exploration and accelerate the proof of concept. This is our 3-C rule: Connect, Collaborate, Convert (into tangible business).
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?TechConnect is an amazing forum to identify technology partnerships in the field of advanced materials and advanced manufacturing – all in one location. It makes the search a very effective process and greatly increases the chance of finding the right partner. TechConnect 2015 enabled Owens Corning to connect with start-ups we had not identified before. It accelerates the path for development. In addition to being a connection accelerator, TechConnect provides opportunities to learn about new technology trends. The Pitch/Showcase program (SBIR conference) is also a very interesting program I am looking forward to. Finally, prep work before the conference is critical to maximize return. In 2016, as was the case last year, our Owens Corning team will identify key partners to reach out to based on our technology pipeline and future needs.
What did you like most about the 2015 conferences?The energy around early stage technology and business concept development was unique at the Summit. During the 2015 Summit, we identified several collaborators for further exploration, and we are continuing discussions with some of the partners a year later.
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