Thoughts on 2017's Supplier Relationship & Innovation Summit

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SRM & I summit

It might sound like a bad joke, but what do you get if you put a group of procurement executives, some R&D folk, a couple of academics working in the field of innovation and a sprinkling of start-up founders and chief scientists in a room together? Thankfully, the answer isn’t a corny punchline; but an inspiring, tantalising view into the future of how procurement might grow and develop its value proposition in the coming years.


With such an alluring mix of job titles and responsibilities in the room, the 2017 SRM & Innovation Summit, which took place at Imperial College London’s brand new – and only partially occupied – Translation & Innovation Hub at White City, genuinely looked to the future.


Phil Kennedy, head of external & digital innovation at 3M, spoke about how R&D is changing, becoming more collaborative, embracing new stakeholders – even procurement – to achieve its goals. David Gann, VP of Innovation at Imperial, spoke about the growth of collaborative innovation and co-creation, and explained his vision for why the university is investing so heavily in working space and laboratories that could accommodate corporates, academics, scientists and start-ups, all under one roof.


This is the new model. A world in which competitive spirit remains crucial, but where the collaboration between stakeholders, companies, suppliers, start-ups, academia, and more, brings a whole new level of opportunity.


Then there was the input of Supplier-Enabled Innovation (SEIC) members. Peter Naegelein, director of business development and scouting at Osram, took us through the progress he has made with his Supplier-Enabled Innovation program; how he has put in place a structured approach to extracting innovation from the supply base, and employed ‘engagement managers’ to work in tandems with R&D on innovation projects with suppliers.


Sandro Scharlibbe, EVP and CPO at Brose, shared his ‘house of incentives’; a robust, structured and – in his own words – very German approach to defining how suppliers can be rewarded appropriately in a world where we are asking for innovation as much as we are asking for cost improvement. (For the record, he has four different levels of incentive in the toolbox: feedback & communication, access & networking, recognition & awards and business opportunities; and then ranks individual incentives within each by the activity, effort and commitment level of Brose.)


As the day went on, the conversations deepened – from how to get started in SEI, to the tools and techniques that can be used to make progress, to working with a new breed of stakeholder, including universities and including start-ups.


All of which brings us to Amanda You and Haidin Rashid.


Amanda is chief scientist at CustoMem, Haidin is co-founder and managing director at Materialize.X, and both are post-graduates who continue to be heavily involved with Imperial.


Both Amanda and Haidin pitched to the group, Amanda explaining how CustoMem’s absorbent technology can capture harmful pollutants from water, such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and high-performance chemicals, cleaning dirty water for safe reintroduction to the water system.

Haidin, meanwhile, explained how Materialize.X’s patent-pending bio-adhesive and machine learning technology is set to revolutionise the engineered-wood industry, and, potentially optimise manufacturing processes across any industry for good measure. The former, by the way, is a $300bn market.


Business cards were exchanged, conversations were started. Who knows where they might lead.


The day after the event, members of the SEIC gathered at the Imperial Innovations Incubator to have a look around the facilities and take a deeper dive into the topic of start-up collaboration. We have a commitment to dig deeper, to explore how we can work with start-ups and other stakeholders with expertise that might bring competitive advantage.


It was an invigorating, inspiring discussion, and one we believe laid the foundations of an exciting future for those companies willing to push the boundaries of procurement’s value proposition.


This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.

Samuel Wrest
Posted by Samuel Wrest

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