Four steps to an innovation gateway

14 June 2019

A successful innovation programme relies on a strong foundation built on market research, problem definition and trialling, according to Cummins.

Speaking at the CIPS Business Briefing on Strategic Sourcing, Denis Ford, international sourcing leader of EMEA & APAC at Cummins, advised delegates on how to build a successful innovation hub from the concept to operational stage. Cummins Innovation Gateway programme first began in 2016 in the UK as a pilot. It has since spread to the US and there are plans to launch in Brazil, Mexico and Africa in 2019-20.

1. Network and collaborate

Networking with diverse companies and industry peers was a large part of research and development for the pilot innovation project. Inclusion was the main driver, said Ford. Cummins worked with ethnic minority businesses, LGBT businesses and SMEs to gain a clear understanding of how to get them into the business.

Ford also collaborated with Marcela Navarro, head of customer innovation at RBS at the time, to get the pilot project up and running by using the RBS innovation programme as a foundation to build on. Six Sigma was used as the basis for the creation of the innovation hub. “We wrapped Six Sigma around it [the RBS programme] ...and took on board all the issues and barriers that were previously seen at RBS and addressed them,” he added.

2. Problem definition

Cummins uses a high-profile “Dragons' Den” pitch event to shortlist ideas, but Ford emphasises that “it’s the process you go through to get to that part that matters”.

Cummins needed to identify the problems professionals were facing in order to tailor the innovation hub. “Innovation is fantastic but without a problem to solve it’s not much use,” he added. Stakeholder workshops were used to bring in people from offices across the UK to contribute to the conversation. This dialogue established the nine themes around innovation and environmental issues.

3. Launch and trial

Pitch event winners were chosen based on evaluations around sustainability goals. Three quarters of the shortlisted applications were from diverse or underrepresented groups, said Ford,  and this proved the programme was achieving objectives such as inclusion.

Once suppliers were selected the project was trialled. Ford highlighted the importance of continuously de-risking the process to mitigate problems and reduce barriers during this stage.

4. Scale it up

Once the success of the programme has been measured it is time to scale it up. This can be done either regionally or globally.

Cummins has brought a version of the Innovation Gateway to the US, with improvements to areas such as the number of finalists, which was halved from the original 26 to 10 in order to increase the pitch time given at the Dragons' Den. It is recommended that when moving established programmes into other countries the culture is factored in.

Communication plans are vital during the onboarding of suppliers to ensure problems are identified and suppliers are supported.

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