Innovation Brief by Jim Shaw - Chief Digital Officer at Bentley


Having attended quite a few major events in the digital space, I have managed to accumulate a lot of insights on next-generation technologies, integrating digital into strategic roadmap and bringing your teams on the same page with the digital strategy.

In this article, I will look at three innovation leaders, namely; Airbus, BAFS and Bosch, breaking down for you how do they push transformation forward and the ingredients to their success.

Airbus - Succeeding with Digital Services and Business Models: Incubators, Outposts and internal Fablabs

Be purposeful: We often forget that why we are doing something is just as important as knowing what we must do. Think of adding an MTP (Massive Transformation Purpose) quote from a CEO to your transformation to fuel change and motivate your people.

“To succeed, innovation needs high levels of sponsorship from top management.” 

Be open-minded: Most companies are now embracing open innovation in one form or another – co-creation with customers and/or suppliers, strategic partnerships with start-ups or benchmarking source of expertise.

Be structured: Airbus has 10 Fablabs across the globe, supported by Protospace that has rapid prototyping capability. Their outposts use local systems to fuel the mothership.

Be faster: Airbus is working with Audi and Italdesign on rapid collaboration, managing to design and create a working 1:4 scale prototype in just four months. Developed as a Proof of Concept, the technology is not ready yet, as the business model is still under construction.

“Technology is getting fast; we need to be faster.”

Be productive: Airbus satellite started with a vision of “internet to everyone everywhere”. They managed to develop a fast, cheap, modular and configurable satellite, allowing them to produce two per day, which is significant against the pace of aircraft build. The project took three years to create and involved 200 people.

Be focussed: Keep building your digital ecosystem. For instance, the future is electric (even for flight), but Airbus won’t build batteries. Benchmark and partner with the best.

“Create proof of principle, then proof of business.”

BASF: Moving beyond materials into smart services

Make time: The way BASF frees up people for innovation is by setting up a business unit within performance materials division created to develop new digital business models in Europe. It’s been given the freedom to experiment with different setups.

Make allies: BASF also engage with start-ups to accelerate innovation, such as Ahrma, which has developed a 25% lighter wood/plastic hybrid pallet using BASF materials. The pallet includes an ‘always on’ transponder (not RFID) that allows real-time tracking of location, weight, shock load and environment. BASF has invested in Ahrma and created a strategic partnership to develop the use case. The result was a customer dashboard, API integration with ERP system and ability to set up parameter alerts. Ahrma had the freedom to work with additional partners. The key to making collaboration with start-ups work is through appointing a ‘connector’ to act as liaison lead, with a clear role description and empowerment to transfer between start-up and corporation.


Make plans: BASF developed an innovation system around the partnership with start-ups with BASF 4.0 at its core. They’re still in the process of developing details due to the level of complexity.

 BASF innovation system

Stay tuned for the second part in the digital series.

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