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5 December 2013 London

Hearing what the customer says, acting on it and innovating with new designs, products and processes

Hearing what the customer says, acting on it and innovating with new designs, products and processes

This message came over continuously during NEF: The Innovation Institute’s Conference Innovisions 2013, held on 5 December, London in association with EDF Energy Campus.

In an event attracting over 200 business and education leaders, the notion of game-changing in innovation was put under the lens. Through stimulating speeches, two inquiry panels and the NEF Innovation Awards presented by BBC presenter and TeenTech CEO, Dr Maggie Philbin, the work of innovation in business and industry, education and public sector was celebrated and acknowledged.Innovation in training and development was recognised when Baroness Verma, Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change conferred the NEF Assured (Nuclear) Award on EDF Energy and STEM Assured Award on Blackburn College.

Taking the helm for the Innovation in Business Inquiry was New Scientist’s Jeremy Webb who asked a panel of business leaders questions on how to gain an innovation rhythm, how open innovation can be achieved and whether mapping the customer experience improves design thinking. On the Innovation in Education Inquiry, the BBC’s Education Correspondent Sarah Campbell headed up discussions with leading educationalists and training experts on new educational models for future learners, ways to extend the value of the learning process to transform lives and not just educate, and freeing up education to prepare for tomorrow’s jobs.

Professor Sa’ad Medhat, NEF CEO said: “Whether you are a company, educational provider or a public sector organisation, the common thread in all is the need to move forward – standing still is not an option! The race to innovate, the search for talent, and, the quest for new markets defines today’s global business environment. Innovation, is the key differentiator to stay competitive.”

CEO of Crossrail, Andrew Wolstenholme said, “Innovation is what makes Crossrail work, from small innovations like safety messages on gloves that have reduced hand injuries to step-change innovations in tunnelling, when you’re dealing with a project as complex as this, innovation is second nature. It’s part of our DNA.” A good example of complexity being that Crossrail are tunnelling just 500 mm below the Northern Line, and this kind of operation requires everyone in the project to be inventive. And it’s not just operations, the disposal of waste is being handled differently. Crossrail is creating an island in Essex that will become a bird sanctuary, enabling a positive impact on the environment as well as on high speed travel.

Ian Hudson, President of DuPont, highlighted the need to blend sciences to get the best out of them. He said, “Integrated sciences is our approach at DuPont, encouraging the working at the fringe of disciplines such as material, chemical and biological science with nanotech to create new innovative products and processes in our key markets of energy, security and food.”

Hudson added: “1 in 6 people go to bed hungry. By 2050 9 billion people will need to be fed – that’s an increase of food demand of 70% and energy demand of 53%. Turning this situation around requires innovation.” Hudson described a case in point in Malawi, where smallholding farmers were given a subsidy on agri-chem products, and as a result their crop yield increased, and as a result lives improved, children were educated and the upward spiral of socio-economic development was created.

A fundamental aspect that came through from all the speakers during the event is the need to respect and value the contribution of others in the organisation. Innovation is not about R & D – that’s only a function – innovation is about people, listening, tapping into and working with the stakeholders in your innovation eco-system. Thus building enough connectivity, opportunity and traction to secure a sustainable innovation pipeline.

UK R&D Coordination Director, EDF Energy, Jean-Benoit Ritz examined what happens when you put the business start-up model inside a corporate. Ritz said that “the entrepreneurial ethos through having SMEs inside the business has driven up opportunities for open innovation and inculcated a spirit of enterprise and freedom to experiment.”. Such engagements are vital for EDF and have helped create cutting edge technologies in areas of clean-tech. EDF know the massive challenges facing energy suppliers. The focus on low carbon, energy security and affordability means that innovation in every shape and form (incremental or step-change) has a role to play. One of the key approaches to finding solutions to these challenges is to listen to the customer and map correlations between behaviour and consumption. Such developments are enabling more innovative energy solutions, like the ‘connected home’, making future energy more cost-effective for all.

Dr Rosie Bryson, Chair of IKE Institute and Leader, Technical Management, BASF cited a game-changer in combating malaria was down to ‘mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide’. Britvic’s Innovation Director, Dr Jonathan Reeves discussed the need for ‘holistic product design that uses design-thinking at its core to drive innovation’.

Much was made by both panels on the need to bring the extended voice to the innovative process. Through partnerships with suppliers, customers and SMEs with specialist expertise, through mixing it up – as Mike Pilbeam, Director of Presales, EMC2 said ‘old brains with new blood, getting the young with the older staff’ – and spicing it up: Bob Shipway, Strategic Advisor, Innovation, MBDA ‘bringing the mavericks with traditionalists to create business tension and catalyse innovation’. On the educational front, much more needs to be done to ensure learners – the digital natives – are brought into the frame, when institutions are designing their new learning models.

Innovation in public sector is crucial to ensure performance remains high but savings are made. This was exemplified by Dr Julia Taylor, NHS Institute, Innovation and Improvement, who stated 20 billion GBP in savings needs to be achieved – that’s 15,000 GBP for every NHS staff member – and this will only happen through innovation in processes and delivery of our service”.

The key to moving forward with innovation is changing mindset. At Innovisions, participants were given enough impetus set their minds in motion.


For further information:

Robyn Burriss or Emma Bennett
Innovisions – Conference Coordinators
NEF: The Innovation Institute
Bective House
10 Bective Place
London SW15 2PZ
Tel: 020 8786 3677


Gordon Bell
Media Relations
01278 654535 or 07843 218088

Notes for editors:

1. Established in 2004, NEF: The Innovation Institute is an independent foundation, professional body and do-tank that supports innovation & the development of SciTech skills through providing:

a. CPD Programmes and Resources
b. Evidential Research, Policy and Advocacy
c. Quality Assurance & Improvement in education and industry
d. Knowledge and Technology Exchange across science and technology sectors

Further information can be found from:

NEF will be launching Brite – NEF’s Innovation Review at Innovisions 2013.

2. EDF Energy

EDF Energy is one of the UK’s largest energy companies and the largest producer of low-carbon electricity, producing around one-fifth of the nation's electricity from its nuclear power stations, wind farms, coal and gas power stations and combined heat and power plants. The company supplies gas and electricity to 5.8 million business and residential customer accounts and is the biggest supplier of electricity by volume in Great Britain.

EDF Energy’s safe and secure operation of its eight existing nuclear power stations at sites across the country makes it the UK’s largest generator of low carbon electricity. EDF Energy is also leading the UK's nuclear renaissance and has published plans to build four new nuclear plants, subject to the right investment framework.

These new plants could generate enough low carbon electricity for about 40% of Britain’s homes. They would make an important contribution to the UK’s future needs for clean, secure and affordable energy. The project is already creating business and job opportunities for British companies and workers.

Through Our Sustainability Commitments, EDF Energy has developed one of the biggest environmental and social programmes of any British energy company.

In 2013 EDF Energy received seven “Big Ticks” in the Business in the Community (BITC) Responsible Business Awards, including a Platinum Big Tick in BITC’s Corporate Responsibility Index. EDF Energy also received the Environmental Leadership for Behavioural Change Award in the national 2013 Environment and Energy Awards and was highly commended in the first ever pan European Corporate Social Responsibility Awards scheme for its Sustainable Schools programme – the Pod.

EDF was an official partner and the official electricity supplier to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The company supplied electricity to the Olympic Park which was backed by low-carbon sources: 80% from nuclear and 20% from renewable generation.

EDF Energy is part of EDF Group, one of Europe’s largest power companies. The company employs around 15,000 people at locations across the UK.

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