Ideas to Innovation
Voice Over: The Ideas to Innovation podcast from Clarivate.
Joan Walker: Hello. I’m Joan Walker and welcome to the Ideas to Innovation podcast. In this brand-new series, we’ll be talking to the people who live and breathe the process of turning ideas into innovation. The technologies that we depend on, the medicines that we rely on, the electricity that powers our day-to-day life, they were all once ideas before becoming inventions. Inventions that have changed our lives for the better. Join the conversation with experts and industry leaders to discuss innovation at its core.
Every year since 2012, Clarivate identifies the Top 100 Global Innovators. These are companies and institutions at the pinnacle of the Global Innovation landscape that have contributed new ideas, solved some of the world’s most complex challenges, and created new value. Today, we have a guest from one of those 100 companies and institutions join us to talk about how businesses today go about creating and sustaining an innovative company, the complexity of modern-day innovation, and how it continues to fascinate and inspire. Joining us today are Bernhard Quendt, Chief Technical Officer and Senior Vice President at Thales, and Ed White, Head of Analytics, IP Group at Clarivate. Welcome both.
Bernhard Quendt: Hello, Joan.
Ed White: Thank you, Joan.
Joan: Now, I would love for each one of you to tell us a little bit more about yourself, and with innovation being the crux of our conversation, I’d like to know what you feel is the most important invention of the last 10 years. Maybe, Bernhard, we could start with you. If you would like to address that question.
Bernhard: Thank you very much, Joan, first of all, for the opportunity to speak at the podcast. It’s not an easy question to answer. People might say that the internet is the most important invention of the last years, but in fact, the first packet networks were initiated already in 1973 by US DARPA. What evolved dramatically during the last 10 years is the day-to-day usage, the possibility to join internet by smartphone or to connect machines in a safe and secure way to the Internet of Things.
Another example people often tell me is one of the biggest inventions is artificial intelligence. Yes, that’s true in a certain way as there are many business-to-consumer applications available today from image recognition to more or less smart proposals, what to buy next or to consume next, but the underlying technology is known for decades. What is still missing is the transparent, understandable, and ethical artificial intelligence for critical systems. As I said, it’s not easy to answer but the connectivity by the internet and artificial intelligence are definitely among the most important inventions.
Joan: Bernhard, thank you for that. I think I’m nodding my head here in agreement with you. Ed, maybe I could throw the same question to you. What’s your opinion?
Ed: Hello, Joan. Lovely to be back again on the podcast. This question of the most important invention of the last decade, I’m with Bernhard. It’s extremely difficult to put your finger on one invention. Partially because a single-point invention is actually relatively rare. Innovation is more commonly a process of iterative improvement, the 1% to 5% marginal gain but which over time have enormous impact.
If I had to pick one thing in the last decade, I would probably put the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technique which was developed I think around 2012, and its developers, the Nobel Prize in 2020, and opens up a huge potential for personalized medicine in particular, things like cancer therapies, and also has some impact, actually, in the world of vaccine development, which is obviously a topic that’s quite topical right now.
Unlike Bernhard, I would maybe also point to some, on the iterative sites, classes of invention that over the past decade have had a particularly acute impact. If I’m going to talk about acute impact, I’m almost always going to talk about COVID and pandemics. Things like the extraordinary development of messenger RNA techniques, which have made highly effective and highly flexible COVID vaccines available for us right now.
The other one that I would pick– I like Bernhard’s one around connectivity and AI, they’re quite good. The other one that I went for was a little odd but it’s video compression algorithms. That seems weird but when you see in our lives platforms like Netflix or video conferencing software like Teams or Zoom, both of which have arguably played a really, really big role in keeping our economies and our wellbeing going over the last 18 months, I think it would have been a much harder path if this pandemic had happened 20 years ago without those developments having been there.
Joan: Thanks for that, Ed. Again, fantastic input from you. It’s really food for thought, isn’t it? Because you think, gosh, having been through the 18 months, we’ve all been through globally, none of us could have worked, could we? We couldn’t have continued any kind of occupation without, as you say, the connectivity and everything we are so used to in our everyday lives.
Ed: Yes. It’s really interesting one. I think it’s easy to overlook a little bit, but I think it’s an interesting thought experiment that if Zoom and Teams, we have Skype 10 years ago, 20 years ago but it was much more difficult. Did the existence of those platforms actually save lives? Because we were able to lock down our economies a little bit more than we otherwise would have been? It’s an interesting idea. I don’t really know the answer. I don’t think it’s really answerable but it’s certainly worth thinking about.
Joan: Yes, I agree. Bernhard, over to you.
Bernhard: I think also that maybe, especially under the impact of the last month. It’s definitely true that this kind of technology connecting people all over the world and being able to continue with business is very, very important. Doing this in a highly comfortable way but also secured with a lot of technologies that prevent from cybersecurity attacks. This is definitely something that is worth mentioning. Although at the first glance, it may be doesn’t appear like that revolutionary because video conferencing is known for also many decades.
Joan: Absolutely. Thank you for that. Now, Bernhard, I’m going to stay with you, and may I offer congratulations? Thales not only appears on this year’s Top 100 Global Innovators, but the company is also an eight-time recipient. That’s Olympic, isn’t it? Thinking everything that’s going on, that feels like you deserve a huge gong. What does it mean to be recognized as a Top 100 Global Innovator?
Bernhard: First of all, and I do this with a smile because I’m with Thales for now about one and a half years. Looking back to this tradition is really making me very proud and very happy that also this year, Thales is among the Top 100 Global Innovators, and being in that ranking is a very great honor for us and recognizes the care that’s taken by the group’s teams to protect intellectual property. It means also a very big satisfaction for the many internationally well-known experts from Thales that contributed to this big success as well as for sure for the management team and for sure for myself as Chief Technical Officer.
I take it also as positive feedback on how consistent Thales’s commitment to innovation is. Year per year, nearly 500 new patents are written, and even more important are more than 20,000 patents today that form the basis for innovative products to the benefits of our clients in civil and defense domains. Protecting innovation is in everyone’s duty at Thales. It’s part of the mission of all members of the group’s research and engineering teams, which are nearly 33,000 to design and develop Thales products and solutions every day. I would really like to dedicate the vote to them, to the people, and the great innovators at Thales.
Joan: Bernhard, thank you for that. That is lovely. I think that is a lovely tribute. Ed, may I turn to you? I found that the foundational stories of the 29 companies that have appeared every year since the Top 100 Global Innovators was conceived a decade ago to be one of the most interesting aspects of the report. Now, the average age of the 29 companies is a century. Like the 29, Thales, which was founded in 1893 is a company with a long history too. The report talks about the importance of a habit for the new. Ed, can you tell us a little more about this?
Ed: Yes. A habit for the new was a phrase that we came up with to try to crystallize this paradoxical concept. This concept that new ideas look ahead, but the ability to do it is rooted in the past. That coming up with not just one new idea, one new improvement, but many of them, that is based on a capability. It’s a process. It’s an organizational history of thinking, of curiosity, of– and we’ve mentioned this before, Joan, disquiet over the way that the things are done today. The word habit is doing quite a lot of hard work in that phrase because it essentially represents, to me, all of the cultural momentum, all of the leadership direction. I am certain that Bernhard spends an enormous amount of time thinking about this.
All of the innovation management processes, and I guess the ideation furniture that sits inside an organization, that’s a prerequisite for constant improvement and idea generation. One of our other top 100 recipients said it quite well, it was Phil Gilchrist at TE connectivity. He said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I actually think it’s a Peter Drucker quote. I looked it up after Phil mentioned it. What he’s talking about there is, you can want to innovate all you want, but unless you have this inbuilt first and the infrastructure of thinking, you are probably going to struggle.
When you look back at those foundational stories, what you see there is that first. You see people like Lars Ericsson in Stockholm repairing early telegraphic equipment for the Swedish railway and then decided, “You know what? These aren’t very good. I’m going to make my own.” Or you see Mark Honeywell installing the very first hot water system into his own house. You fast forward a century and Ericsson is a global telecommunications powerhouse. Honeywell, many of us will have Honeywell thermostats in our house right now. The magic, the hard bit, it is this consistency. It’s this continuity of habitual thinking.
Joan: Ed, thank you for that. I love some of those turns of phrase. Just absolutely lovely. Now, Bernhard, what do you think about this notion of a habit for the new? I read in one of the Thales blog posts about companies with a long history such as Sangoma and Thales remain at the forefront of technological innovation today, and they’re capable of inventing the world of tomorrow. I think that is pretty much a quote. How does a habit for the new keep Thales at the forefront of technological innovation?
Bernhard: The purpose of Thales is building a future we can all trust. As the future is changing, hash and complexity increases every day. The habit to innovate is essential for us. Thales is essentially an organization that’s focused on innovation. We are driven by the passion to innovate. Thales is one of the few groups in the world that’s capable of mobilizing thousands of researchers and engineers, significant financial and technical resources, and world class partnerships to build a confident future.
For us, innovation is really at the center of our doing. As I said, Thales is designing solutions in a universe of extreme complexity. These systems and products often require long-term development based on the most advanced technologies. As for example, quantum physics, also algorithms like artificial intelligence. This capacity for innovation is a result of sustained economic relations, HR methods, and a critical mass in industrial commercial and scientific terms. Only with this long-term view and this sustainable and constant investment in innovation, we can deliver on our purpose to build a future we can all trust.
Joan: Bernhard, if we could just stay on the topic of innovation at Thales, in the same blog post, it says that innovation is at the very heart of our DNA. You’ve touched on that, but how do you go about maintaining that innovation stays at the heart and maintaining that, I suppose, the momentum that you gather, how do you do that?
Bernhard: Well, the term of DNA is often used to refer to a company’s tradition, and Thales, especially its predecessors Thomson-CSF can look to over a hundred years of history. We have long understood that we cannot innovate only on our own. In our DNA, it is to innovate together with others. Especially in these complex times we are living where multidisciplinarity is really crucial, it’s important to base the innovation approach and the innovation strategy on a collaborative approach.
This collaborative approach is based on three pillars. It’s the innovation, first of all, with our customers, which are very innovative too for sure, and looking for innovative solutions. The agile and collaborative innovation together with our customers is really key and one of the pillars of our innovation strategy.
Then innovation, as I said, seldom or rarely happens if you work on your own pace. To share innovative ideas together with universities or with research institutes worldwide is a central pillar of our innovation strategy. Thales not only has its research centers and research activities in France, but also in UK, Canada, Netherlands, and in Singapore. It’s important to understand that this international culture and this international network of experts helps to move forward and to innovate also with the international and cultural approach.
The third pillar, and this is also very important, is the innovation in an ecosystem together with other companies with small and medium sized companies, the startups and Thales is working with more than 1,200 startups. We have developed more than 160 proof of concepts together with them and they are carried out in a couple of business areas. This innovative acceleration ecosystem is very important for Thales. I just come back from a business trip to Canada, where we are working in a center it’s called AI@Centech to support the acceleration of artificial intelligence. I can tell you it’s really fantastic to see how together the startups, with young people we are driving these technologies forward.
Joan: Bernhard, thank you for that. You obviously can’t see what I’m doing here, but I’m making notes. I’m making notes on everything that you’ve just said. I love this three-pillar structure. These are extraordinary. Thank you very much for that. Now, Ed, this very much chimes with what the report has highlighted about innovation culture, the value, how it’s a strong indicator of a company’s enduring success. Can you tell us how you were able to measure the value of innovation culture?
Ed: What we were looking for was a way of exploring the idea that companies that have this habit, this inbuilt strength, exactly the things that Bernhard is talking about in their innovation management processes, the way that they’re collaborating, this culture of disrupting even themselves, are they, over time, more highly valued than the market? That was the hypothesis, I guess, we put to it.
To measure it, we leaned on the Top 100 Global Innovators process itself to provide a separation, to create two groups of companies whose value we could measure over an elongated period. Those two groups, one of them was the 29 that we’ve been talking about. The 29 that never left. The other group was– I think it was 24 companies that were included in the top 100 process back at the beginning in the first two years, but dropped out and haven’t returned since.
Using the top 100 itself to provide two cohorts that we could then go and pull a lot of financial information for, and specifically looking for historical market capitalization information. For those of you that are less familiar with the financial markets and its terminology, market capitalization or market cap is the total value of all of the shares of the company added together. The stock price multiplied by the total number of shares. Essentially, it’s the total value of the company to its owners if you add up all of that holdings together.
We looked at that information in each October from 2014 through to 2020. What we saw was this enormous valuation gap between these two groups of companies. The companies that never left the list, they grew two and a half times. The other group slightly above a 1.1 time, so almost no growth actually. The 29 that never left, they outperform traditional stock market indexes like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500.
In hindsight, it’s obvious. Our hypothesis is that companies that innovate consistently at the highest level will be worth more over time. Will be more highly valued. What we discovered here is that consistent innovation culture, it doesn’t just have a market value, it has an enormous market value. In total, across these 29 plus 24 companies, it was a three and a half trillion-dollar difference. That’s massive. Perhaps more intriguingly, the tough economic hit in 2020, it actually magnified that difference. That opens up a potential argument here that companies with consistent high-performing innovation culture, they aren’t just more valuable, they’re also more resilient and more able to weather difficult times.
Joan: Ed, thank you for that. That’s certainly food for thought. Now, can we ask, and forgive me if this seems slightly a simplistic question, but why is it that the parallel between the value of innovation culture and a company’s long-term success was unearthed in this year’s report?
Ed: It’s a fair question. The kernel of where it came from was that 2021 was our 10th year. We naturally had to look back a retrospective air. Look back on what 10 years of running the same process, the same analysis could tell us and what stories it contained. I work with many people across Clarivate to put the report together each year. One of the things we’re always looking for is, “Well, how do we want to approach this year? What do we want to talk about?” That historical view, it generated things like the foundational stories. We did a lot of historical research and this narrative of there being an inherent value inside the organizations that is only measured after the fact today, right?
Financial markets, when they look at companies, they look at things like revenue and the profitability and financial measures that markets are dealing with day to day. Those are outcomes, right? What came quite naturally to us at Clarivate was, “Hang on a minute, we’ve got to measure here. Can we see if our data and the way that we measure stuff can add value there?”
This is a really interesting area of discussion. As I said, those financial markets they’re really good at measuring outcomes. They’re also really good at measuring inputs like how much money companies are spending, how many employees they’ve got, mergers and acquisitions, how much money is spent and invested, and then waiting, essentially, to see what happens in terms of revenue and profits that emanate out of those investments.
The financial markets have tools like balance sheets and earnings announcements, profit and loss statements that look at a snapshot of those companies on the day that those publish, but actually investment and return are events that are very time separated. As Bernhard was saying, these are complex innovation problems. They take time to mature, to incubate, to develop to get honed. The innovation measures that we are looking at, they come from the top 100 program and they are on measuring the ability of companies to convert investment into outcome, that track record of success, and yes, the level of consistent new market leading a market changing innovations.
Joan: Ed, thank you for that. That’s an excellent response. Bernhard, I wonder if you’d like to add anything to Ed’s reply.
Bernhard: Maybe just a bravo, because for sure, Ed, I’m not in the financial domain. I really love to listen to you and to hear the explanations. It’s really a justification and proof that this common sense impression that innovative companies have a long-term success is really true. I liked the way also that Clarivate put the focus on that because it gave me the opportunity also to learn a little bit more about the history of Thales which I said, I’m not so familiar with that. Sure, the economical success and growth is highly linked to an innovation culture. Thales has proven this over many years.
Just maybe to give this example, because innovation helped us also to continue in a successful way in these difficult times. It’s not only about long-term growth, but it’s also about resilience in difficult times. For me, besides the economical success, there’s also social implication and that’s by helping a company’s employees to work from home safely and securely or managing drone traffic for deliveries or keeping the transport system up and running across cities and countries is for me a very important result and societal impact of innovation. I think besides the economic growth and sustainability, it’s also a common resilience and the way how Thales contributes to the welfare of everyone.
Joan: Thank you both. I think for anyone listening, everything that you’ve both said is certainly encouraging to all the innovators, both big and small out there. I can imagine it must be especially hard in such challenging times that we’re experiencing to persist and invest in turning ideas and concepts into concrete products and solutions. There must be that big question mark of, “Shall we bother?”
Now, coming back to the topic of innovation, let’s talk about the process of innovation and an area that inspires and captures the public’s imagination. That area is space. It has been in the news fair amount just recently. Bernhard, if I might turn to you, one of Thales’s markets is space. How is innovating for space different, or indeed similar to Thales’s other market areas?
Bernhard: Well, first of all, Joan, let me say that innovation for space is thrilling. It’s breathtaking. If ever have the opportunity to visit our site in Cannes, where we built the satellites together with the Thales Alenia Space where we innovate in space, it’s really, really breathtaking. Besides of this fantastic domain, I would also say that there are more commonalities than things that differentiate from other markets. The strength of Thales is in combining different domains, where we act on critical decisions and where we identify these commonalities and especially what we can do together to improve in this business.
Thales is addressing a lot of investments to lower parts of the technology readiness levels. Meaning research, even fundamental research, which can be used in a lot of businesses. This is one of the big assets of Thales that innovations that we have, for example, from the avionic sector or from our latest acquisition with Gemalto on digital identity and security we can use in space also.
Just to give you some examples, the way how we improve the resilience in our avionic business or in our train business, in our signal in business helps us also to improve the resilience in space. This is important because once the satellites are in space, you cannot change so much. I would rather say space is thrilling and it’s a fascinating domain for innovation, but the big strength of Thales is rather to work on the so-called transverse technologies that are to the benefit of the many domains of Thales.
Joan: Bernhard, thank you for that. Now, Ed, back to you. This year’s report revealed that certain sectors are prominent innovators. For instance, there was a jump in the number of electronics and semiconductor firms, and the report also revealed the importance of innovation in the automotive sector. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about what’s going on there?
Ed: Absolutely. Every year we measure the Delta, the change from year to year across regions and countries on one side, and we also measure the change from year to year across 15, quite high-level sectors of innovation. These are tags like pharmaceuticals, academic and government research, software and media, and that thing.
For 2021, there were a couple of specific jumps that we saw. One was in the electronics and computing equipment space. It had a very specific data point around Taiwanese firms in that sector. This is companies that some may have heard or some may not. Companies like Kinpo Electronics and Asus. We also saw the entrance of a company that people probably have heard of, which is Bose in the US the headphones and sound company.
In the semiconductor space we saw something that I was quite pleased to see. I’m based in the UK. I’m based in London. We saw the entrance of ARM, which was the first ever British company in the Top 100 Global Innovators program. It’s now in the process of being acquired by Nvidia, which may change that status. We also saw the first-time entrance of a US semiconductor firm called Qorvo. Both of those is a really interesting change in terms of the innovation makeup of the semiconductor space.
Then finally in the automotive sector, yes, it absolutely was there, but it was firms that people are probably less familiar with. They are suppliers firms. They are part of the supply chain in the automotive sector. We saw BorgWarner, a US company enter for the first time, and we saw a Japanese company called Yazaki return to the top 100. Both of those are automotive component suppliers. What they do is they design and manufacture parts that go into cars.
There’s a little bit more around the automotive sector in that each year, we also publish something called the innovators to watch report. Actually, we’ve just recently released this, which looks at candidates for entry into the top 100 in future years. We see a big bump in the automotive companies as potential recipients to come. We’ve discussed on the podcast previously, Joan, the car industry is undergoing this convergence storm. Is being buffeted by mega trends like electrification, like connectivity as Bernhard was mentioning at the beginning. Sustainability themes, automation themes, and autonomous vehicles. Has ever, the effect of that convergence storm, the effect of change and disruption of caring, it raises the bar. It raises the need for faster, better, more impactful innovation output of the kind that we see and measure in the top 100.
Joan: Ed, thank you for that. I hear you loud and clear on that. Bernhard, looking at innovation in the automotive sector, there is a hive of activity, certainly with electric vehicles innovation that Ed just touched on, which we actually were talking about the other day, but also with autonomous cars. Now there’s a great deal of complexity in building autonomous cars. It needs to incorporate solutions involving powertrain engineering, suspension geometry, weight distribution, cybersecurity, communications, technology, to name just a few. What does this mean for innovation teams, such as those at Thales that are developing ever complex and knowledge intense solutions?
Bernhard: I take the example of autonomous cars to widen up the domain to autonomous objects in general, because Thales is not in the automotive sector, but for sure we are facing the challenges of autonomy with autonomous trains, with autonomous planes or with a lot of automation in insecurity management and so on. First of all, the notion of autonomy means a lot of different technologies coming together. It’s really a multidisciplinary work that our engineers are confronted with and to be able to manage this multidisciplinary complexity, it’s important that the people can work together so that they find tools and processes that help them to cooperate and to work together.
People that are experts in sensor technologies, that are experts in the infrastructure and the connectivity and communication technologies and security technologies to connect all these sensors, but also in algorithms or hardware platforms to get decisions out of the many, many data that comes from the sensors helps us to succeed in the domain of autonomous objects. There are many more technologies that will have an impact on the future.
It’s not only the autonomy topic. That’s a lot of change in the period of the software systems are built namely the visualization of functionality and the operation or the deployment of this functionality in the cloud or the concept of edge systems, the expectation of highly sophisticated algorithms that simulate artificial intelligence, then new possibilities that offer 5G technology, or even beyond the first work is done to define the next generations of the– over next generation of mobile communication. For sure, there’s a very big topic. It’s about quantum technology and a possibility to manipulate one single quantum object in the future.
Joan: Bernhard, thank you for that. It’s interesting because what we’ve touched on a couple of times in this discussion is this sense of sharing information, sharing knowledge in order to really proceed and innovate globally. Ed, can I come to you? I just want to touch on something that Bernhard was talking about at the start of that piece. He was talking about inventions getting more knowledge intense. Can you elaborate a little for me on this idea of knowledge intense?
Ed: Yes. We have a very simple measure of knowledge intensity and looking at it specifically from the perspective of what’s required to innovate in the 2020s versus in the past, or even just a few years ago. That simple measure is how many inventors are on the front page of the pattern now compared to them. When we measured that over– I think it was a five-year period. We saw over 5% increase that number. Today, on average, it takes three people to invent in 2021 compared to I think two and a half people, if that makes sense five years ago. It’s actually consistently always going up.
What does that really mean and what’s causing that increase? Probably it’s quite a few things, but the one that sticks out for me and from what Bernhard’s talking about is that– and by the way, we see this across a few different pieces, but it’s basically that the innovation today usually crosses and has foundations across multiple disciplines, multiple traditional science and engineering disciplines that someone would study at university, right?
To innovate in the automotive space today, you need an electrical engineer, you need a material scientist, and you need a mechanical engineer. If you’re innovating in the genomic space, you need a data scientist, you need a statistician, you need a computer scientist as well as a biochemist. This is a phenomenon that you see in every industry, in every sector, in every field of research.
In essence, what we are saying is that in 2021, to invent, you have to collaborate. We gave this a phrase, we called it the need for others. You can’t silo thinking and ideation into divided groups across an organization. You have to create a culture of cross-disciplinary problem solving as Bernhard was mentioning and really this is one of the habits. This is one of the foundations that we discussed earlier, the organizations that differentiate in terms of their innovation muscle, they’re the ones that are able to do this.
Joan: Ed, thank you for that. Now, just staying with the automotive sector and indeed transportation as a whole, we’re seeing an ever-increasing focus on delivering more sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions. Now, this certainly extends to all sectors and it runs deeper to how businesses are run and their supply chains and much, much more. We’re all aware of this. Now, with COP26 and the United Nations back race to zero global campaign, what does it mean for businesses and society alike? How are companies such as Thales and Clarivate responding to the global fight against climate change. Bernhard, maybe I could start with you on this.
Bernhard: Thank you very much, Joan, and I will come to the topic of environmental friendly solutions a little later because before all I would add to sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions, also safe solutions because it’s my deep conviction that living in a safe world and making the world safer is a very thrilling topic. What this means is quite well explained by a couple of examples. To protect citizens and businesses on the network against cyber security threats or by helping states to maintain the sovereignty by providing secure means of identity or by optimizing and ensure the safety of public transport be it in trains. or be it in air travel. This is very important for me too.
Coming back to the question of sustainability or environmentally friendly solutions, I think one of the biggest challenges I see is to cope with the energy consumption of data processing also. This is somehow underestimated, but already today, a large number of energy consumption goes to data processing. The way how our systems will be defined based on an edge technology that tries to get the best out of the data directly at the source, instead of sending terabyte of data to a central data center in the cloud and getting the results back, our approach is to process this data and getting critical decisions already at the edge, which also speeds up decision-making and helps to consume less energy on the systems.
If I speak of less energy, it’s important to know that in embedded systems, the energy consumption for sure it’s restricted. In embedded systems, you have size, weight, power restrictions and you have to design your algorithms and your technology to cope and to satisfy these restrictions and especially the energy consumption. It’s important that you design it to meet the requirements.
Besides the effect that data has on energy consumption, there are a couple of concrete topics that Thales is investing to reduce for example energy consumption in avionics. For example, by flight management systems, which find the optimal routes for air traffic or by reducing the weight of the displays in the lens which we all love to have entertainment during our flights. This weight reduction has already a very huge effect on the fuel consumption in the planes. Besides that, there’s traffic management in train traffic and there’s the fact that Thales innovates and constantly pushes for eSIM and iSIM cards in mobile phones to reduce the weight of the classical SIM cards that are central.
Joan: Bernhard, thank you for very much for that. Ed, anything that you’d like to add?
Ed: For us, sustainability is really core to the mission of Clarivate and the services and information that we provide our customers. The biggest thing that we can do is fulfill our mission to inform and create clarity for the organizations that are everyday generating ideas that reduce humanity’s impact on the natural world and the way that we consume resources. That need for clarity is very much entangled with the ideas that Bernhard’s been talking about, that we’ve been talking about convergence, knowledge intensity. Those things have another way of being described. Complexity, disruption, disintermediation, change basically.
In the specific case of my team at Clarivate in the advisory and analytics group, we actually see projects from our customers that fall into these spaces. We see requests from data storage companies that are asking us about biochemistry. We see traditional telecommunication companies asking us about gearboxes in cars. We see oil and gas companies looking at renewables. We see tobacco companies looking at less harmful products.
It’s a real thrill to, be honest, that we get to help and guide and describe what the future likely looks like in these complex fields so that they can get there faster. To be honest. if COP26 is telling us everything, it’s telling us that we’re running out of time. Increasing innovation speed is pretty much the single biggest thing that we can do.
Joan: Ed, thank you for that. You’ve actually just touched on what was going to be my penultimate question which is COP26 talking about the need for collaboration between government, business and civil society. If you had to put in a little nutshell how businesses are rising to the challenge, Bernhard, maybe I could start with you and say what do you witness in terms of this collaboration?
Bernhard: I think it’s essential that the challenge to a future which is environmentally friendly and a future that is safe is a challenge that only can be satisfied in a collaboration between governments, the civil society and business. For this purpose, Thales is together in a lot of activities to work that out. The discussion with partners from governments with partners from other enterprises and with the civil society is key for us. For example, on the topic of artificial intelligence, just four weeks ago, the big program of confidence AI was launched here in France and it’s a endeavor that many companies share together to bring forward artificial intelligence in a trustworthy way so that all can benefit from it.
Joan: Thank you very much for that, Bernhard. Ed, may I just ask you what you’re witnessing in the idea of collaboration which I know you were just touching on?
Ed: In my view, it’s not just a goal. It’s basically a necessity, similar to what Bernhard was saying. I remember when I began my career and the hot topic of the day, the buzz word that everybody used. In fact, there were whole conferences around, was this topic of open innovation, which is the idea that it’s simply not possible for one company or one organization to innovate on their own. No one has a monopoly on ideas, nobody employs every single clever person. There’s always more idea out there.
Now, this is my view. I’m not going to say it’s the Clarivate position but there’s an argument that open innovation as an idea is dead. That’s because it’s a given, it’s air at this point. If you are attempting to innovate just inside your team or just inside your organization, what you produce won’t be as good as solution as it could be. Probably it will take you longer and you will be lighter to market. That’s what first piece I would say.
The second piece around it in terms of the COP26 collaborative principle is the idea of technology transfer which is the transition of ideas and research out of the university environment and the research institute into product systems and solutions that exist in the real world that are making a real impact. I’ve seen it performed and helped an awful lot of universities and research institutes work on this process, and it is always increasing. I do see these trends operating, but I would almost come back to the beginning of this one, Joan, and say that while it’s a goal for COP26, for top innovators, it’s a given.
Joan: Ed, thank you very much indeed for that. Now to just wrap up today’s conversation, I’d love for you both to share with us what you feel will be the most meaningful and impactful innovation that will help build a more resilient and sustainable future for the world. I’m just going to quickly throw that question to you, Bernhard.
Bernhard: First of all, let me comment a little bit also on what you asked about the government, business and civil society because I think it’s important to understand that Thales is in an ongoing dialogue with its main stakeholders from government, from other businesses, from our shareholders and the civil societies to work together to identify the most important environmental, social and economic challenges. We continuously discuss that and find out what’s the impact on the group and realize challenges and the opportunities fast.
To answer the wrap up question, so to say, about the most meaningful, impactful innovation, I would say it’s a question as difficult as the first question because I think there’s a lot going on in the way energy sources and energy consumption is changed. Thales is not in that business. I would say I have a lot of expectation and positive expectation but they change with quantum technology and what often is called the second quantum revolution. The fact to be able to manipulate one single quantum object, be it a photon or an ion, or an atom.
If we compare the impact that the broadly adopted technology of quantum, what we find in semiconductors, for example, how this impacted and completely changed the world we are living in with all the electronic products coming up on semiconductors, the way that one single object can be manipulated will have an impact which we even cannot foresee for the moment. For me this is one of the biggest revolutions that will take place in the near future. I’m happy that as Thales we are investing heavily in these technologies to satisfy our purpose.
Joan: Bernhard, thank you for that. Ed, may I ask you the same?
Ed: Bernhard’s quantum computing is a really good example. I wish I’d thought of that one better because it is amazing. For me, I will go with technologies that will make renewable energy sources not just more viable but cheaper than traditional fossil fuels so that we can be done with fossil fuels is even a question. The technology that I would pick is battery technology. With intermittent sources of energy like wind or solar, you have to have overcapacity that you can store somewhere though. You can put electrical energy somewhere for when those sources are off.
The ideas here are things like batteries that are site on wind farms and solar plants that are essentially giant tanks of electrolyte, where the battery just looks like an oil tank or a water tank and you can swap the super small size of a battery that’s in your phone for something that’s incredibly cheap, much more cheaper in terms of the amount of energy that it stores it’s expandable, it’s flexible ready for use for energy storage for the nighttime when the solar panels don’t work.
Also related to this is– and we’ve talked about it a few times now, the electrification of the automotive industry. As we move to a renewables energy supply and the fact that we need an awful lot more battery storage on the grid. We are about to plug in millions of mobile batteries into the grid that don’t move quite so often. People don’t use their car 90% of the time. That’s an idea that’s got an awful lot of legs.
Joan: Ed, thank you for that. Well, it just remains for me to say thank you both Bernhard Quendt and Ed White for a truly engaging conversation about the Top 100 Global Innovators. The value of innovation culture, the complexity of modern-day innovation, and the sustainability imperative. The contribution of the world’s innovators are more critical than ever before as we look ahead to a better, more sustainable future.
Follow and listen to Ideas to Innovation for engaging, informative and inspirational content with insights and you can use. Now available on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, and other podcasts directories. Share, like, review, or join the conversation with your comments on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook by clicking on the share link. Thank you for joining us. Until next time, I’m Joan Walker. Goodbye.
Voice Over: The Ideas to Innovation podcast from Clarivate.
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