TechConnect News speaks with Currie Crookston, Head of Innovation Management for Covestro North America.
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Covestro.
I joined Covestro about 2 years ago to launch a new Innovation Management organization in North America. I bring a background in engineering and business, shaped by my experience in large organizations (the military and a large medical device company) and most recently in founding technology based start-ups.
My charge was to identify new opportunities for Covestro by focusing on new business models that leverage data analytics and digital tools. Our group also strives to build a culture of “intrapreneurship” within Covestro, by melding the mentality of a small start-up with the large reach and resources of Covestro
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
We are looking for technologies that can enhance our products (polyurethanes and polycarbonates), processes and/or technical service offerings. Particularly attractive are innovations that either allow us to enter new applications with our current product portfolio, or develop new business models based on our competencies. We aren’t generally looking for the next new to the world polymer, but rather technologies that allow us to leverage our current strengths in polyurethane and polycarbonates for growth and increased margins.
Sustainability is a significant driver for our innovation efforts. We are constantly looking for solutions that can improve the sustainability of our current products and contribute to new product offerings with strong impact on the triple bottom line of people, profit, and planet.
Some specific areas that we are targeting include composites, 3D printing, medical devices, renewably sourced raw materials, autonomous vehicle components, improved comfort in polyurethane flexible foams, and improved insulation and fire resistance for rigid polyurethane foams. We are also interested in technologies that contribute to a “circular economy”, where products, at their end of life, can be used as building blocks for new polymers - either through recycling or by conversion to raw materials that can be used to manufacture new products.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
We have and will continue to collaborate across the entire technology readiness scale – from nascent technologies to commercial solutions. The key is that we see some synergy between our competencies and the technology of interest. We need to be able to clearly identify how our participation can uniquely add value to the technology.
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?
Like many companies, we see innovation as essential to our continued success. We take a holistic approach to innovation and thus are interested in innovations not only in our products, but also in how we interact with our customers, in business models, and in internal processes.
We have many avenues to leverage innovations outside of our own walls. Examples include sponsored research at universities or research institutes, joint development agreements with suppliers, customers, or technology providers (from start-ups to well established companies), and acquisition of technologies or firms.
Taking one example from our own group, we currently have a faculty member spending a 1 year sabbatical on-site at our Pittsburgh based U.S. Headquarters. He founded a start-up company and is working with our innovators to identify opportunities where machine learning can enhance our ability to develop, or help our customers develop products more efficiently.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
At the conference in June, we hope to identify candidate technologies and hold initial on-site discussions through one-on-one meetings arranged as part of the Corporate Partnership program. We will pay particular attention to technologies matching our interests that were already outlined above.
Tell us why you participate at TechConnect World?
We see it as a “one-stop-shop” to learn about a wide variety of technologies from a broad community of innovators.
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