There are different aspects to innovation, and here Robert Plana, Chief Technology Officer at Assystem, an engineering group who specialises in designing and managing projects with technological content, safety and security requirements, explains how it works with innovation, what benefits it has and how we can keep driving innovation for the future.
Assystem believes that innovation offers opportunities to gain advantages in a market that continues to be competitive. Innovation plays a critical role in the effectiveness of businesses and actually enhances Assystem’s potential to grow. Additionally, innovation gives businesses the ability to coordinate with changes to the environment, market and customer brand.
With more than 2,500 engineers working in the nuclear sector, it is apparent that nuclear is the primary business for Assystem in lifestyle and in industry.
Assystem eventually wants to become a leader in nuclear engineering, but with the evolution of the energy mix and increasing urbanisation, it wants to take a position in renewable energy, smart grid and transportation systems on one side.
When it comes down to innovation Plana explained there are several important areas that need to be addressed. “For example people need to attract others with complex projects, new capabilities and skills. This can sometimes prove difficult as it sometimes means creating a new professional path.”
The second point Plana explained was using innovation for business acceleration is better for customers. “The customer is our main focus. At Assystem we ensure we deliver for our customers and provide a service of intimacy, and we believe that innovation is the glue that helps stick that all together.”
The company has created an ‘Imagine our future’ programme which includes different objectives and actually runs an innovation contest. “Working with collaborators we come together with ideas and projects on a collaborative platform, which I believe makes the company more diverse and leads us to creating more relevant projects - this is a good way to stimulate innovation.”
Assystem also takes time to stimulate collaborators in external projects, for example it is doing a lot of innovation work with some French and UK colleges. “We have an open innovation partnership with multiple universities in UK and France to develop new projects with them, and with this Assystem provides supporting grants and PhD grants for certain projects and students.” Assystem also does some work with startups and newer projects in the industry, in particular VR to help people get going with innovation.
Assystem works across a number of countries and of course is passionate about bringing innovation to businesses all over the world, but does a lot of work in the UK as it has specialist skills in digital asset engineering, remote handling, stress engineering and is additionally developing constant new solutions in non-contact surface metrology.
One key message which shines through when it comes to innovation is how important a vibrant ecosystem is, otherwise you hold a risk that your solution, idea or project may already exist. The work Assystem does with startups is especially good for this, as Plana explained: “A lot of dynamic work is provided by startups, so it’s great for business, and great for the startups as it gets them contacts.”
Connectivity is extremely important for innovation as there is huge amounts of data out there that we face today. Plana elaborated on this: “It is very important in the nuclear industry with hot and cold data, that we use such information in reports that it would be impossible for humans to work with.”
Plana finished off by talking me through his opinions on the future for innovation. “The industry needs to be more open and we need to be supported by an ecosystem. This is achieved through universities, startups and SMEs for Assystem, and it is so important that they all fit together.”
He added: “It’s all based around the technology pillars - BRL (Business Rigidness Level) and technology itself. In terms of the technology the company has the money and the startup has the technology so it works together as a combination. With the BRL you have to support decisions with good reason, have all your ideas and plans set out and ensure they are relevant.”