Satellite navigation is fantastic, isn’t it? Type in the postcode and off we go, confident that we’ll arrive at our destination....

But how often have we heard the SatNav say ‘you have arrived at your destination’ only to look around and not be able to spot it? Sometimes the postcode just isn’t enough.

Well, my daughter recently sent me a link to ‘what3words’, an App for identifying locations much more precisely based on combinations of three words. Apparently there are enough combinations of three words to assign a unique ‘address’ to every 9m2 area of the world’s surface (the three word address of the 9m2 piece of land I'm currently on is The emergency services are now starting to use the three word address system to find exact locations much more easily.

How can we locate YOU?

I thought the idea behind ‘what3words’ was brilliant. An innovative way of using technology to solve a problem. And it got me thinking about my work at Tata Steel where we’re searching for future technology partners to work with us on solving problems and/or developing new opportunities.

The trick is to locate a partner, maybe an academic institution, an SME or a larger industrial company, with the right skills and knowledge to complement our own. We also need to factor in the type of solution/technology that we’re searching for. Finding the exact combination is a challenge. If only it was as simple as typing in a three word address. But that’s where our innovation portal comes in. It maps out our technology interests and challenges – across our markets and production processes – for prospective partners seeking a match with their own ideas for potential new developments.

Finding the right technology partner

Reform Systems, specialists in fitting out offices and retail spaces, provide a great example of how well open innovation can work. They contacted Tata Steel with a proposal to combine their unique panel-joining system with our Coretinium® lightweight steel and polymer composite panels. “We were searching for a panel that would fit our patented rail and clip system and be able to span up to 1200mm gaps,” says Colin Hibbs, Director at Reform Systems.

Discussions followed and we worked together to demonstrate the combined Reform Systems and Coretinium solution at the Active Classroom, a ‘buildings as power station demonstrator’ built by Specific Innovation and Knowledge Centre and supported by an industrial consortium including Tata Steel. Since then, the new system has been used commercially to fit out an outlet for a major fast-food chain, with more contracts pending. As an aside, the Active Classroom was built using a panelised construction technology identified via our innovation portal.

Can open innovation take you where you want to go?

Are you looking for that unique combination of partner and technologies to dovetail with your own expertise and ambitions? Could Tata Steel be the exact starting location for bringing a new product or technology idea to fruition? Take a look at our innovation portal – it may just bring us both a step closer to the destination we’re seeking.