Our recent experience says that it does. A great example is how Tata Steel went from assessing an innovative paint application technology to working with the Agile Aging Alliance to develop ‘Neighbourhoods of the Future’.

The story shows how open innovation is creating opportunities for us and our partners in terms of:

  • direct technology development
  • new markets

Chapter 1: Assessing the technology

Via this portal, we received a proposal from a company that had developed a very innovative technology allowing digital printing of industrial paints. Tata Steel produces around 170million m2 of pre-painted galvanised steel strip every year. So, any technology that could potentially digitally print our paints was of interest.

To help evaluate the technology, we applied for a one-year project supported by Innovate UK, the UK government’s primary vehicle for supporting industrial innovation.  A strong part of the successful bid was that Tata Steel provided a potential route to market for the paint application technology that our technology partner could not hope to develop alone.

In less than a year we had:

  • produced demonstration samples
  • proved the technical feasibility of digitally printing industrial paints into a variety of designs on a steel substrate

A more in-depth market and scale-up assessment is now being considered.

Chapter 2: New market opportunity

The paint technology assessment project and, the involvement of Innovate UK’s monitoring officer, Ian Spero, led directly to an unexpected opportunity.

Ian, an entrepreneur and great supporter of open innovation, is also founder of the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA), a campaigning social business which aims to demonstrate that through innovations in technology, business and service models, our homes and neighbourhoods of the future can serve as an engine for economic growth, leading to a reduction in the financial burden on State and citizens. On an initiative to develop ‘Neighbourhoods of the Future’, backed by the European Commission, AAA launched a cross-sector partnership programme which aims to support development of new digital and construction technologies that will enable people to enjoy more fulfilling lives in their later years. Given Tata Steel’s commitment to open innovation, our desire to work with new partners, and our strong presence in the construction market, it was an obvious fit for us.

We’re now leading a £multi-million, multi-partner (including Microsoft) bid to design and build pilot buildings for ‘Neighbourhoods of the Future’. Jonathan Clemens, Tata Steel Head of Marketing for Construction and Infrastructure said “It’s a fantastic new market opportunity for us and our partners  and it would not have happened without constantly engaging with people and organisations about our open innovation philosophy”.

Are you looking for opportunities?

This story shows how open innovation is producing a win-win scenario for us and our partners.

  • Partners win. By combining the agility and technical innovation of, in particular, smaller organisations, with Tata Steel’s market knowledge and insight, potential routes to market are being created for innovative technologies
  • And we win too. By demonstrating our commitment to open innovation and collaborative working, we’re discovering new market opportunities

Have an idea you want to discuss? Get in touch via this portal and let’s see what opportunities we can develop together!

About the Author

Pete Longdon has a PhD in Chemistry and MSc in Ferrous Metallurgy. He joined the steel industry as a researcher in 1990. He’s since led several R&D teams and managed a number of European collaborative projects for Tata Steel. Since 2010 Pete has been tasked with seeking out new technologies and encouraging collaboration.