Joris Betman, Digital Business Lead, suggests that when businesses seek to drive innovation outside of their core expertise areas, the greatest opportunities may lie with organisations previously considered to be ’of no concern….'

Tata Steel Europe (TSE) has a rich history of collaborating on innovative steel-enabled solutions for our markets. In this spirit of collaboration and innovation, we recently joined the Hardt Hyperloop consortium which aims to create a sustainable solution for the mobility challenges of the 21st century. Together with Hardt, we’re working hard to develop a tubular solution for the hyperloop pod to travel through. This is an exciting development for us. It not only tackles a big societal issue, but also plays into our key competencies – understanding structural and material requirements and developing appropriate steel-enabled innovations.

But what happens when there’s a need for innovation in a critical area outside the core competency of our organisation? How do we even know what’s possible if we don’t fully grasp the technologies, knowledge, resource and other boundary conditions?

Adapting to the pace of digital innovation

Digitalisation is one of those critical areas of development where our internal competency does not, and will not, fully match our needs and level of ambition. We live in an exciting time of digital innovation in manufacturing. Driven by a need to become ever more efficient, most of our customers have adopted a strategy to digitalise their operations. The promise of waves of value creation driven by data is simply too appealing to ignore.

In today’s economy, not adapting to the pace of digital innovation opens the door to disruption by new entrants – flipping even the most traditional industries upside down. But, acknowledging that Darwin’s theory of Evolution also applies to the steel industry is one thing. Understanding how to adapt to the necessary pace of innovation is the real challenge.

Digitalisation challenges 

At TSE we’ve started the journey of ’adapting’ by looking at our own operations through a lens of advanced analytics. Our Advanced Analytics department has even been marked as a lighthouse ’Factory of the Future’ project by the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. But this maturing competency at TSE will not provide us with all the tools to meet our customers’ challenges in digitalisation. To help customers succeed in driving value from steel-related data in their processes, much more digital innovation is needed. And that’s where you might have some great ideas.

Can you help us find answers through open innovation?

The ability to find opportunity in new digital technologies – and turn that opportunity into value – lies at the heart of digital innovation. And what better way to achieve this than working alongside organisations previously considered to be ’of no concern to our industry’?

To drive an effective digital innovation agenda, Tata Steel Europe needs to find answers to these questions – and FAST:

  • What's the best digital technology to use?
  • How should I apply this technology?
  • Do I understand the opportunity this technology creates?
  • Do I have the capabilities to develop this solution
  • Will the market accept this solution?

To be successful in digital innovation, we see collaboration through open innovation as a priority. We extend an open invitation to any organisation or individual who thinks they have the next best idea for ushering in a new wave of data-driven value creation in the steel and manufacturing value chain.