Incubator Program Office: growing tomorrow’s projects
In today’s digital era innovation is moving at a fast pace. We must be capable of quickly identifying our client’s needs, as well as the internal processes that we can improve in order to respond to them. That’s the role of an incubator. It provides the agility that is not found in traditional structures. It gives those involved in innovation (both external and internal) the means by which to develop their ideas, through to the product or service to be sold.
What is incubation?
There are several forms of incubation. We can attract people who already have ideas in the early stages of development. They then receive financial and logistics support, as well as advice to help them make their project a reality. This happens in the same way when internal staff are involved. Ideas that are considered “viable” are identified and then the same process is followed. Incubation encourages a sense of initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit within the company. Employees are given the opportunity to bring their ideas to fruition.
Incubation at Michelin
At Michelin we have a name for incubation: Incubator Program Office (IPO). Launched in 2014, this program covers projects linked to three of our four non-tire-related strategic areas: Experience, Services & Solutions and High-tech Materials.
The role of the IPO is to detect relevant projects that are liable to support growth at Michelin in the future. We are looking for ideas, both internally and externally, that can be quickly implemented and have definite objectives. We grow them as far as possible and test them on the market to make sure of their viability. Our ambition is to create a portfolio of businesses or projects incubated at Michelin.
Three questions for Marc Evangelista, Vice-President, Global Incubator Program, Michelin
Why was an incubation program launched at Michelin?
It happened because we became aware of the fact that as soon as work was begun on projects that were disruptive either technologically or in terms of the current offer, established business units were finding it difficult to mobilize resources and time, due to uncertainties as to the result. It is a real obstacle to innovation. To deal with this problem, the Comex set up a Corporate Innovation Board, which initiated our Incubator Program Office. The aim is to regain agility and give ourselves the right to make mistakes, in order to test new things. The only way to never make mistakes, is to never take risks which is not a good thing for a company.
How does it work?
Schematically, what our research partners do upstream in developing technologies, the IPO does downstream, just prior to commercialization. We are based on the operational side of things. We rely on internal expertise particularly for services, but always in strategic areas where we have a legitimate role to play.
To begin with we mainly incubated internal initiatives. We selected five for each continent (America, Asia, Europe).
At the same time, we linked into the ecosystem of start-ups in order to integrate new approaches, such as working in short loops with clients; we call that Design thinking. That led us to take stakes in start-ups that were capable of providing solutions for our ideas such as E Dai Bo, Symbio FCell and Exotic System.
How does this function on a day-to-day basis?
We make sure that the projects incubated have a strong link with existing business units, in order to remain rooted in reality. Every initiative is sponsored by a Michelin BU director That’s an opportunity for healthy discussions, which create real synergies. It feeds on the expertise of our work, which it enriches in return with new ways of doing things.
It is also important to know when to say stop because we have the right to make mistakes. It is what happens in 50% of cases, which is a good indicator that we are capable of taking risks. It’s never a personal failure. And people working in the IPO can easily come back again later; their experience is valued by the company!
Plusieurs résultats ont déjà émergé de l’IPO
Driving Data to Intelligence
Thanks to Michelin’s experience in vehicle behavior and road use, we have succeeded in generating smart, predictive data. We can materialize reactions and intuitions. By anticipating behaviors, breakdowns, circumstances, we can give companies and drivers the key to a safer road experience.
AeroOne is focusing on developing aerodynamic solutions for the trucking industry. The objective is to enhance the performance of existing aerodynamic devices in order to improve fuel efficiency. In time, it will provide Michelin North America fleet customers with a completely new systems integrator approach.
Working on the reduction of carbon emissions, the Group decided to invest in Symbio FCell, a start-up that specialises in fuel cells. Today it benefits from the cutting edge logistics of our research structures to accelerate the development of its products. This Michelin-Symbio FCell partnership was awarded the Best Innovative SMB-Major Group partnership prize.
Le pneu MICHELIN Tweel
The airless tire, developed in our US facilities, benefitted from the IPO for the design of new usages. It is used, for example, on loaders and farm machinery.
The IPO is also looking at services for mobility. Our incubator in China, for example, allowed for the development of “WeCare”, a smartphone application that offers a global vehicle maintenance service.