Grouping skills to promote industrial innovation
As the name of the division suggests, Stokking’s team of engineers and scientists create innovations for industry, with the ultimate aim of helping companies be more competitive. “It’s especially necessary in times of crisis,” he says. “It’s an anti-cyclical thing. We have to invest in change now, so that we can be ready for the future. Some,” he admits ruefully, “don’t ‘get’ change, while others use the crisis to get the changes done.”
“Philips Electronics came to us with a big challenge about seven or eight years ago. It was the catalyst for our first multi-company project. At the time, Philips was half the size of Siemens and GE and just couldn’t afford to do all their research on their own. So they asked us, and IMEC from Leuven, to develop expertise in the field of OLED (organic) lighting for them. All these years later, we now have world-class expertise in this field, and more importantly we’ve come to understand how important it is to get companies working together. In fact forty companies from all over the world are now involved in this project.
“It was a long-term bet, and likely to be an expensive one, but as you’ll appreciate the stock market doesn’t reward long-term thinking, they just want short-term profitability! There was a condition attached, however. They wanted other companies to be involved, not only to share the load, but also to add their knowledge to the process. This was certainly an ‘all for one, one for all’ moment, and today every one of the companies involved can justifiably claim to have benefited from the collaboration. We now understand that doing projects like this on your own is not the best way. We can see that the quality of research, speed and scope of innovation is better when you move to open community working, and that’s where Vlerick comes in.”