TechConnect News speaks with Dr. Paolo Bavaj, Head of Venturing at Henkel Adhesive Technologies
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Henkel.
My name is Paolo Bavaj, I am a PhD chemist with 15 years of professional experience in the chemical industry working in different positions and regions. I joined Henkel in 2011 as Head of New Business Development in the Adhesive Technologies business unit. Back then, my focus was on establishing a process on finding new potential business areas to get involved in with both mid- and longer term investment horizons. It was already back then when we started to work more closely with interesting start-up companies – and there are various successful collaborations. Over the last years we have made direct investments in two material science start-ups – Vitriflex and DropWise – and also invested into two material-science focused VC funds from Emerald Technologies and Pangaea. I am now heading the venturing activities for Henkel’s Adhesive Technologies business unit.
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
Henkel is a globally operating company with leading positions in both the industrial and consumer businesses. With our three business units – Adhesive Technologies, Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care – we generated sales of 18.7 bn euros in 2016.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?We definitely would like to see a technical prototype. In principle we are stage-agnostic, but would appreciate if the startup has already gained some traction and revenue.
Tell us why innovation is important to your company and how this model supports your efforts to find new innovations. Could you describe 1-2 policies or programs your company has in place to support external innovation?Innovations are the basis for future growth and for Henkel’s long-term success. Our brand and technology innovations come from both internal and external sources. That’s why the concept of Open Innovation has great significance for us. For example, we involve external partners such as universities, research institutes and suppliers in many of our development projects. At Adhesive Technologies, we clustered our innovation portfolio into three horizons: The first horizon is basically renovating our existing technology and product portfolio constantly and growing organically. In horizon 2 we are developing new technologies in our research team and new growth platforms through New Business Development. Horizon 3 is then approaching totally new technologies, applications and business models through our venture capital activities.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?We are supporting and visiting TechConnect in particular with colleagues from our industrial Adhesive Technologies business unit – including us, being responsible for venture capital activities. We are looking forward to seeing a bunch of new and promising technologies related to advanced materials and material science as well as meeting other investors to exchange ideas and evaluating co-investment opportunities.
What did you like most about the 2016 conferences?The technical presentations were very enlightening concerning key issues many start-ups are trying to address, such as anti-fingerprint coatings. In addition, the huge number of start-ups allowed the attendee to understand the spectrum of approaches being taken to address specific topics, and to meet the principals from the associated start-ups – in a short and efficient time.
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