When we launched our open innovation (OI) initiative in last year, I was pretty apprehensive. We’d spent months planning it and all of us on the OI team had faith in the power of collaboration. But had we done enough to spark your interest and ideas?

It turns out I shouldn’t have worried. After a slow start, the word got around and pretty soon innovative ideas have been coming in through the portal, our NineSights Technology Challenge Gallery  and other sources. To date we’ve had over 300 proposals from individuals, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia and large, blue chip companies all around the world. It’s a fantastic response and way beyond our expectations. Thank you!

From India to Finland, from Australia to the USA, potential partners have been in touch with proposals linked to our production processes, product development opportunities and new application areas. Thanks to you, we are now:

  • looking at new ideas we’ve never considered before

  • working with companies with skills and technologies that we don’t possess in-house

  • identifying potential future partners in a range of technology areas

Can you imagine a world without steel?

Unless you’ve been living in the wilderness, you’ve probably noticed that times have been pretty tough for the steel industry lately. At Tata Steel, we’re experiencing our fair share of turbulence. But that’s making us all the more determined to work with external partners and to innovate. In fact, I would argue that challenging times are a ripe breeding ground for innovation.

Just look around you – from the food cans in your cupboard to the cars on the road – and you’ll know that the world isn’t ready to live without steel any time soon. The challenge for us and our partners is to find new and better ways of making and applying that steel to enrich and sustain our world.

So, I encourage everyone to keep those ideas coming through this portal – and through our Technology Challenges Gallery. Naturally, not every idea will hit the mark. But I promise you that we do review every suggestion – and we forward some to other Tata Group companies even if they’re not right for Tata Steel. Encouraged by the response to our portal, the Tata Group has also posted challenges on our NineSights Gallery and launched its own open innovation programme

Watch this space!

We treat all proposals in confidence. But I can tell you that we’re currently working with proposers on some very exciting ideas. As soon as we and our new partners are ready to reveal some information, I’ll share the news with you in my blog.

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.