TechConnect Innovation News speaks with Dr. Chris Skinner, Director Front End Innovation, at Owens Corning.
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Owens Corning.
I am the Director of Front End Innovation at Owens Corning. I am currently leading a global corporate innovation organization that serves roofing, insulation and composite divisions with a goal to rapidly build business opportunities for the corporation. My team creates new products, processes and business by operating in a start-up mode with prototyping capabilities located in Granville, Ohio and Chambery, France.
Prior to my current role, I was the Director of Product Platforms for the Composite Solutions Business at Owens Corning from October 2013 to October 2016. In this role I was responsible for the total product line of the $2Bn Composites business. In this role my team received three JEC Innovation awards and Frost & Sullivan’s “Best Product line” award for the Wind Energy Portfolio.
I joined Owens Corning in 2009 and has worked in a range of technology and marketing roles within the Composite Solutions Business including the Global Technical Fabrics business and the Engineered Solutions business. Prior working at Owens Corning I held the role of VP of Strategic Marketing for the Rhodia Polyamide Business based in Lyon, France.
I also worked for more than 10 years at ICI / Huntsman Polyurethanes in various international assignments in technology and marketing in the UK, Belgium and Germany within a range of business units including Composite Panels, Thermoplastic Polyurethanes and the Automotive Group.
I graduated from the Open University Business School with an MBA in 2001. I hold a Ph.D. and B.Sc. (Hons) in chemistry from the University of Durham in the UK.
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
• Advanced materials for building and composites markets: 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 in a range of global markets.
• Sustainability: Our company is focused on “meeting the needs of the present without
compromising the world that we leave to the future.” To this end we are constantly seeking new technologies that will enable us to reduce the impact we have on the planet whilst meeting the needs of our current and future customers. Technologies that could enable the reduction of postindustrial/pre-consumer and post-consumer waste are of considerable interest for us.
• Advanced manufacturing: To raise the performance of our operations to a new level, it is critical to identify new enabling technologies capable of transforming the way we make and deliver solutions to customers through new processes, enhanced control and characterization and through new supply chain technologies. Transformative technologies such as additive manufacturing are of interest due to their potential to transform the industries we operate within.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
We are interested in technologies over a wide range of readiness level, preferably TRL-3 to TRL-7. Depending on capabilities of potential partners we look forward to identifying complementary skills that are necessary to commercialize a new technology for our business.
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?
Innovation remains fundamental to Owens Corning. The history of the company was in creating glass fiber and then building an industry which grew from building products into the composites space. Throughout the 78 years of its existence it has been at the forefront of technologies in this space and recently accelerated the investment in a Front End Innovation group focused on growing its capabilities in open innovation and lean start-up approaches to deliver the next series of innovations to maintain the growth trajectory of the company.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
Owens Corning has been actively participating in TechConnect for the last several years and found that as a suitable avenue to identify and establish technology partners to accelerate early stage discoveries. We look forward to meet with start-ups, universities, national labs and centers of excellence with a focus on all technologies that would have utility in the current and adjacent markets that Owens Corning works within.
What did you like most about the 2016 conferences? Or could you share an example of a collaboration or connection you made at TechConnect World?
• Energy : The most interesting feature of the conference was the energy to find mutually beneficial partnerships on emerging technologies to create value for customers
• Connection: The focus on making connections during focused sessions, during break-out sessions or during expo are unlike any other conferences.
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