Dr Erkki Ormala is one of the world's leading authorities on industrial innovation. METS Ignited spoke to Dr Ormala about the role of company culture and research and development in innovation, as well as lessons for Australian and European METS companies.
METS Ignited: In your experience, what are the traits of an "innovative" company, both large and small?
Erkki Ormala: Innovative companies have a strong commitment to innovation. Innovation is integrated into the business strategy enabling all business functions and units to get involved in innovation activities.
MI: Must innovation be taught, or is it embedded in a company culture?
EO: Company culture plays a critical role in innovative companies. Creativity, open discussion and encouraging incentives are elements of innovation culture. Some companies celebrate publicly the best innovative ideas, which creates favourable culture for new innovations to flourish.
MI: What role does publically funded research and development play in successful commercial innovation outcomes? And to what extent should innovation be industry driven?
EO: Public funding has turned out to be important for innovative companies. The externalities of successful innovations justify a strong role for governments. But it is important to remember that governments have an important role also in many other respects. Regulatory environment, public procurement, education, public/private partnerships, trade agreements, etc are critical enablers for industrial innovation.
MI: What does "innovation" mean to companies you surveyed and do you believe there is a fear associated with it?
EO: Innovation drives economic growth and job creation in all economies. It is critical for companies to survive. At the same time, we need to be aware that policy still plays an important role. New challenges should be discussed publically. For example, digitalisation will change our societies and business environment in a fundamental way and we should learn to deal with challenges proactively in order to find solutions on time to react to new developments in a way that allows companies and societies to prosper in the changing conditions.
MI: What can the Australian METS and mining community learn from the European experience?
EO: European experience shows clearly that co-operation curiosity and profound business environment analysis are critical for future success. The biggest successes in Europe clearly shows that if there is a common vision, good collaboration culture and strong public/private partnerships the opportunities for successful and sustainable development is possible.
MI: What can Australian companies teach our European counterparts?
EO: I am looking forward to learning more about the Australian experience and bring those learnings back to our European discussion. Multiculturalism is certainly an area where Europe has a lot of learn from the Australian experience.
MI: Do you perceive differences in the culture between Australian and European companies and how will that modify the way innovation is seen?
EO: I am quite confident to say that both continents have a lot to learn not from each other but the experiences from all over the world. At least both Europe and Australian seem to be lagging behind in the development of digitalisation.