21. June 2018
Aachen is on its way to becoming the innovation hub for smart hardware. The founding of the Invention Center in 2014 made Toni Drescher one of the first pioneers to bring the industry to RWTH Aachen Campus. Find out more about the Invention Center and about technology and innovation management in our interview with Center Director Toni Drescher.
What does the INC Invention Center on RWTH Aachen Campus represent? What exactly do you offer your members?
The INC Invention Center on RWTH Aachen Campus is the first point of call for the fast and customer-focused development and implementation of new ideas. We offer our members access to an established network of experts and introduce them to the right research and industry partners. We accompany the innovation process from the initial technology and innovation strategy all the way to prototype production. That is how our members can position themselves with future orientation and develop their innovations quickly and successfully within budget. Roughly explained, our offering consists of five services: Membership, community, accelerator, state-of-the-art knowledge and a broad spectrum of training programs for technology and innovation managers, where they can gain further qualifications.
How do your members utilize the platform or ecosystem that RWTH Aachen Campus provides?
The close proximity to RWTH Aachen, the centers and enrolled industry partners on campus, as well as Fraunhofer Gesellschaft ensures that we can transfer and apply latest academic findings. Our specific focus is on science and engineering topics. That is how our “Engineering Valley” on campus came to be, which deals primarily with the development of smart hardware solutions. This approach is unique and allows our customers a very compact access by way of its Invention Center membership, which facilitates direct exchange with our local experts. By now, our members are closely connected to each other. We are encouraging this with the help of regular meetings, at which we report about new developments in technology and innovation management and make sure that the right people find each other for discussions and partnerships. Our annual Technology & Innovation Management Conference, which highlights all important aspects of a specific topic area from the viewpoint of industry and academia, offers experts an excellent opportunity to exchange their experiences. This year’s main topic will be: “Agile Invention: Hype or Game Changer?” Knowledge, the sharing and accumulation of knowledge are a large part of our offering. We actively promote knowledge transfer between academia and industry in over 30 networking events every year. Our members can participate in syndicated projects or cross-industry work groups and can take advantage of our extensive range of workshops for the creation, organization and optimization of a professional technology and innovation management.
You created an interactive experience on campus last year. What exactly does that mean?
INCworX is a protected environment in which we work on ideas and implement them all the way to the first model in close cooperation with our customers. This room can differ in terms of format, depending on the activity and the size of the group. This interactive experience room features state-of-the-art equipment and offers plenty of space for own ideas. In effect, the room invites people to behave in various ways, awakens curiosity but never pretend too much. The space stimulates and fosters creative teamwork, far away from everyday business life. Team building suddenly becomes easy, because everyone cooks their meals together or works in the small model workshop alongside each other. This interactive experience is designed in such a way that participants are led through all five steps of design thinking. Each step has a physical station and allows a conscious experience of the methodology. A creative workshop can be optionally added to accompany our offering. We also offer tailor made workshops, which the customers develop jointly with us ahead of time and into which their own particular business characteristics can be included. That applies for product, as well as business model innovations. We are currently working on extending the co-working area. Our members will have the opportunity to work alongside us right here on campus for an extended period of time. Here too, we want to create a path for impulses, which appear from entirely different ways of looking at the same topic. This type of creativity becomes easy when innovation managers from various backgrounds can get feedback completely informally – for example while having a little chat around the coffee machine.
What were your expectations and visions when you founded the INC Invention Center? What came true, what didn’t and what happened that you hadn’t expected?
Our basic idea was to look at technology and innovation management from an entirely new angle that would allow us to overcome the mounting challenges of an increasingly digital and ever changing world. Companies face even more challenges today than they did in 2014, which can often not be resolved by traditional innovation processes. Digital players like Uber, Apple, Netflix and others lead the way and their agile, fast, fresh and highly adaptive processes put a lot of pressure on established companies. Fortunately, we are on the right track with our Invention Center and are able to satisfy industry needs. At the same time, we do want to grow our network even more. We want to remain relevant and interesting for customers with our offering and re-invent the INC over and over again.
Where will the future take you?
We will expand the INC offering here in Aachen, as well as internationally. For Aachen, this will mean the development of the Innovation Factory. Academia, established companies and startups will get together to take advantage of the options we offer with our holistic approach to further increase their innovation productivity. The Innovation Factory will have to be attractive for industry and should motivate companies to choose Aachen as a location beyond traditional collaborations in the clusters and centers. The entire topic area of innovation is, of course, also a global topic. We actively seek exchange with other industrial regions. We want to understand how their markets work so we can learn how the challenges in technology and innovation management are handled internationally. Most importantly, we want to make the first step into these markets easier for our members and offer them an uncomplicated way to working locally. That is why we will open the Invention Center in the startup and technology hot spot Hong Kong before the end of this year. And we will be adding another location in Boston next year.
You would like to learn more about the implementation of successful approaches in technology and innovation management for your own company? Then you should definitely attend the TIM Conference.
12th Aachen Technology & Innovation Management Conference,
12th Aachen Technology & Innovation Management Conference,
Agile Invention: Hype or Game Changer?
Pullmann Quellenhof, Aachen
25th + 26th October 2018