“Innovation is a team result, which lives from diverse expertise and ways of thinking”
An event format for all employees entirely dedicated to networking, exchange, and inspiration – and, of course, the presentation of awards for the best innovation projects at Covestro: That’s the Innovation Celebration, which has been held regularly at different times in various regions throughout the past few years.
As jury members, Dalia Gončiauskaitė and Christine Mendoza-Frohn, selected the best projects in different categories for the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America region. In addition to her role as a jury member, Dalia also took part in the competition and won first place with her team in the "Products & Applications" category.
The Project member perspective:
- What made you (and your team) decide to take part in the Innovation Celebration?
Dalia: We have joined Covestro through recent acquisition of the Resins & Functional Materials (RFM) business from DSM, and we felt that after three years working on this topic it was a great opportunity to share our results with our new colleagues. We are very proud of our achievements and of the fact that the results also contribute to Covestro’s circularity ambitions.
- Can you give a brief description of your project and what makes it special to you?
Dalia: We are working on projects that replace conventional polymers with biodegradable ones in applications where recycling and re-use is not an option. We primarily target applications in agriculture and cosmetics. The technologies we are using have the potential to be used in other areas, like packaging and furniture. Our project supports Covestro's vision to be fully circular.
- How did the Innovation Celebration support you (and your team) to realize the project?
Dalia: First of all, compliments to the whole Covestro organizing team! They did a great job and organized a great event, given the circumstances due to the Corona pandemic! During the entire process we felt great support in terms of networking and colleagues at Covestro who have been working on similar topics or had ideas how to solve some of our challenges. Teamwork was extremely important. We knew we could fully rely on all team members, all working hard to get things done.
- What do you think colleagues can learn from your project?
Dalia: We achieved all of this with a very small team and very limited budget. That led to doing things in a very creative and start-up like way. We have also reached out across different than usual teams to get ideas and advice. We have also started engaging with customers early on to get insights into applications and partnered early on to speed up market introduction. Overall, this project is an example of Innovating through partnerships – early engagement with technology partners and customers was key to our success.
- Has being a part of Innovation Celebration made a difference in your job?
Dalia: Having participated and won in the “Products & Applications” category gave us an extra boost of energy and confirmation that we are working on the right things! Having a small and agile team is not always easy, and this gives us extra motivation to keep going.
The jury member perspective:
- What was your impression of this year’s entries/teams?
Dalia: Participating also as a jury member was a great opportunity to get insights into what Covestro is working on. The submissions we reviewed were great examples that innovation can, and should, happen in any place in the company. All participants had realized great projects and made our decisions very difficult along the way.
Christine: In each category we had the most diverse and excellent inputs. All inputs were appreciated by the respective panels and should continue with pride and energy. The company theme of sustainability and heading towards a fully circular economy felt like a common theme – so it is great to see, how our teams are enthused by our vision and how we take pride in contributing to this with our projects.
- How does the Innovation Celebration fit into Covestro’s ambition as a company supportive of innovation and heading towards a fully circular economy?
Dalia: It is important for Covestro to be recognized as an innovative and sustainable company. This starts with our own personnel, and we need to nurture a mindset that appreciates these two important pillars of our Company’s strategy. The Innovation celebration is a serious but fun way to strengthen this further.
- The word Innovation may sound like a task really high-level and technical. Does a person have to be technically savvy in order to innovate?
Dalia: Identifying how something could add value in a new way is key to innovation. This goes far beyond technology, but understanding the potential of a technology, product or concept can really make a difference. So while having a basic understanding of a technology helps, understanding how it can add value is key. This also means that collaboration between different profiles, e.g. consumer insights, technical, financial et cetera is needed to innovate.
Christine: Everyone in any area can innovate or contribute to innovation. Observing daily needs of human beings – here we can all stay curious and voice the insights with courage. Other colleagues will cooperate turning ideas into solutions and scaling them and further colleagues will think about how to monetize the result. Innovation is a team result, which lives from diverse expertise and ways of thinking, inside and outside the company.
- For you, what are the main criteria of a good project that mirrors Covestro’s innovation culture?
Dalia: The common line I saw through all the submissions was courage. Every team tapped into Covestro’s expertise and capabilities to solve issues in an outside the box way. I really saw an open mindset to challenge the current status quo, which is a great basis for future innovations. With our ambition to become fully circular we will need all the courage and creativity.
Christine: A good project should solve a need. It should be feasible at scale in a decent time and as well have a financial return, be it a fresh revenue stream or a contribution to lower the costs. As we are committed to contributing to a sustainable future, a match to our sustainability targets is an important selection criterion for our innovation spent.
- Do you have any advice for future Innovation Celebration teams?
Dalia: When you think you have something interesting to share – go for it! It is a rewarding and fun process, and you can get input on projects you are working on that may help you in your future journey.