TechConnect speaks with Paolo Bavaj, Head of Corporate Venturing for Henkel Adhesive Technologies.
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Henkel.
My name is Paolo Bavaj, I am a PhD chemist with 27 years of professional experience in the chemical industry working in different positions and regions. I joined Henkel in late 2010 as Head of Strategy and Business Development leading into the position 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 time 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 four Advanced Materials start-ups – Vitriflex, DropWise, NBD nano and Copprint – and also invested into two material science focused VC funds from Emerald Technology Ventures and Pangaea Ventures. 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 20 bn euros in 2017.
In November 2016, at the presentation of its strategic priorities “Henkel 2020+”, Henkel announced to step up its corporate venture capital activities. Over the next years, Henkel is committed to invest a total amount of up to 150 million euros in start-ups with specific digital or technological expertise. For our industrial business, the focus is on new technologies and applications expanding our Advanced Materials capabilities in adjacent markets for adhesives, sealants and functional coatings – that means, technology innovations such as 3D printing, functional coatings and printed electronics. In Henkel’s consumer businesses Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care, the focus will be primarily on digital – from “internet of things” to social media, e-commerce as well as personalized products and services.
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.
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 startups, 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.
Tell us why you participate at TechConnect World?
The technical presentations were very enlightening concerning key issues many start-ups are trying to address, such as functional coatings. In addition, the huge number of startups allowed the attendee to understand the spectrum of approaches being taken to address specific topics, and to meet the principals from the associated startups – in a short and efficient time.
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