Please use another Browser
It looks like you are using a browser that is not fully supported. Please note that there might be constraints on site display and usability. For the best experience we suggest that you download the newest version of a supported browser:Continue with the current browser
As everything from designing buildings to manufacturing engines is transformed by digital processes, the metamorphosis of ideas into innovations has accelerated. What is more, the pace at which technologies and business models are outstripping each other is upending entire industries, often causing significant disruption. Digitalization is driving many of these disruptive changes. And Siemens is actively shaping this development – yet remaining true to one of its most cherished traditions: Setting store by brilliant minds as the source and engine of every innovation.
Ideas alone have little value. An innovation’s importance lies in its practical implementation, in the intellectual work expended on it, and in the labor and money spent on it.
This is as true today as it was when Werner von Siemens invented the pointer telegraph, which dramatically sped up the transmission of messages. Von Siemens – who would have turned 200 this year – translated an idea into a technology that turned out to be revolutionary. Today we speak of disruption, the buzzword of our times when it comes to innovation. And for good reason. After all, never have technologies and business models that significantly change their industry superseded each other as quickly as they do now in the age of digitalization. What applies today can easily become obsolete tomorrow. Companies that only develop and constantly improve existing technologies are at risk of quickly falling behind. Often it is start-ups that redefine the rules of the markets in which large corporations operate. That is because ingenuity and speed are the special strengths of these young companies.
In order to remain one of the world’s most innovative companies, Siemens is increasingly adopting a start-up mindset. Siemens has bundled its existing commitment to start-ups within next47, the new unit founded in October 2016, and is opening itself up to disruptive ideas. The focus is on the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous machines, connected (e-)mobility, distributed electrification, and block chain applications. next47 has been given a high level of autonomy, but it also enjoys access to customers thanks to its proximity to Siemens, and can quickly try out new concepts in real-life industrial settings. Jeremy Herrman, co-founder and CTO of the start-up Plethora, praises the teamwork with Siemens: “It’s great to have an opportunity to access support and software for free. Not many huge companies have that kind of collaboration culture.” Plethora, a San Francisco based start-up, has developed Plugins for CAD programs that extremely accelerate the process of prototyping.
Network with others, develop things through collaboration, and respond to those who say, “That won’t work” with “No such thing!” These are the characteristics of people who have won the Inventors of the Year award. “When others say ‘That won’t work,’ my eyes start to light up,” is how Roland Gersch describes what motivates him. Working for Caterva, a start-up founded by Siemens, he and colleagues “developed an energy storage device that transforms a private home into a power storage station that supports the grid and makes money, too.” For that, he won the title of Inventor of the Year in the Open Innovation category. The same attitude is evident among inventors who participate in Germany’s “Jugend forscht” (“Youth research”) contest , for which Siemens will act as national mentor in 2017 , as well as countless scientists around the world who work with Siemens on research cooperation projects.
It takes this kind of openness to innovative ideas, whether they come from inside or outside the company, for Siemens to be successful in an environment characterized by acceleration, disruptive technologies, and new business models. In this environment, Siemens relies on one constant: ingenious minds that develop their ideas into innovations. This way, Siemens will not only allow digitalization to happen, but will actively shape it.
The pace of innovation processes has not only increased rapidly, but the processes themselves have changed radically. Innovation in the 21st century is created not just by new technologies. Business models also have what it takes to turn the rules of entire industries on their head.
Interview with Lak Ananth
Lak Ananth is a Pathfinder. Well, no longer by name but certainly still by nature. As of the 14th November, Lakshmikanth Ananth became the head of next47 , leaving his position at Pathfinder, the venture capital and partnership unit of Hewlett Packard Enterprise to take on a new challenge. We sat down with him to find out more about the man and his mission.
Lak, what’s your background and what brought you to next47?
After being part of the industry for more than 20 years, I now look forward to contributing my background and knowledge to next47. I consider next47 an historic opportunity to create value both for start-ups and for Siemens as our parent company. With many market-changing technology shifts ahead, next47 has the potential to spearhead innovation and establish a new kind of collaboration.
What is your personal vision of next47?
next47 has the potential to be a unique innovation catalyst for three groups: the start-up community, Siemens and customers who are hungry for innovation to transform their businesses. next47’s purpose is not just to create a sandbox for innovation, but to find and scale businesses that will help Siemens stay ahead. And we have to deliver on that promise. As a Siemens subsidiary, we have both an external and an internal vision. The external vision is to be the world’s premium address for ventures between corporates and start-ups, as well as a role model for open innovation. The internal vision is to shape Siemens’ core businesses of tomorrow. A decisive factor will be the team’s ability to find opportunities and engage with the Siemens ecosystem. My personal vision is to position next47 as the perfect facilitator to blend the best of these two worlds.
next47 will make Siemens as accessible as a small and nimble company for our start-up partners.
How do you plan to breathe life into next47’s mission?
What we really need is a new era of collaboration between young and mature enterprises that is based on mutual respect and the will to provide answers to the big questions of our time in terms of technology and in society. Fortunately, the notion of collaboration is not new to us. We have some very good programs to build on and a lot of experience with start-ups.
What does it take to lead next47?
next47’s goal is to invigorate the entrepreneurial mindset with courage and curiosity. Having the courage to explore new technologies and tap uncharted territory, as well as the curiosity to keep on exploring. To enable this mindset, next47’s partners must enjoy the freedom to act in a quick and agile manner in order to seize their opportunities.
What will next47 offer to start-ups?
next47 will make Siemens as accessible as a small and nimble company for our start-up partners while bringing the awesome customer trust, reach, and knowledge of a large company to the table – characteristics that include global presence, name recognition in regional markets, customer access, proprietary use cases, and prototyping paired with deep vertical know-how, to name just a few. We have the ability to form a great business from just an idea in a short time. For instance, we have enabled a robotics business to develop eight generations of hardware within less than a year. We can offer access to some of the world’s most sought-after clients, including Siemens.
Inventors of the Year 2016
To constantly reinvent how we invent – that was the guarantee of success even for Werner von Siemens, and to this day it is still the hallmark of companies that are perceived as innovators. Siemens’ portfolio ranges from electrification to automation to all-encompassing digital concepts. Whether it’s new, groundbreaking ideas for wind power, high-speed trains, the future of energy, or the digital transformation of medical and production engineering, it all comes from the same source: ingenious minds that use creative latitude to shift the basic parameters and come up with ingenious answers to the pressing questions of our time. They make Siemens what our company always was and is today: one of the most innovative in the world.
They are newcomers with creativity, dedication, and enthusiasm for technologies. They are experts who think and work with an interdisciplinary mindset and shun the beaten path by, for example, applying technologies from the animation of movies to medical engineering. Their innovations have set new standards or opened up new business applications. What the Inventors of the Year have in common is their ability to prove that there is no such thing as “That won’t work” and that often it is the unconventional approaches that result in innovations.
Siemens’ increasing focus on speed and instilling a start-up mentality in a global enterprise does not mean that its core competencies, which have been developed over decades, should be discarded. Innovation can be enabled by looking outside the box, by unconventional thinking and by new work-time models. As always, however, innovation can and will arise from the incremental development of existing technologies. The only way a company can be successful over the long term is for all these things to come together.
An aerodynamics optimizer makes onshore wind farms more silent.
It reduces noise by more than ten percent.
Its shape is based on the wings of owls.
Siemens has built the ICE 4 for Deutsche Bahn.
Its railcars function as independent units.
They can form trains from five to 14 cars.
Computer-animation is revolutionizing medical engineering.
Cinematic rendering enables 3D images of the human body’s interior.
Raw data comes from CT and MRI.
Plug & play transformer for high-voltage grids.
It can be installed within one week.
It is capable of restoring power in record time after an outage.
Digital Factories: Electronics Factories in Amberg and Chengdu.
Products and machines communicate with each other.
The error rate is minimal.
Whether it’s manufacturing automation, digital planning methods for logistics, or energy-efficient supply infrastructures, our world is being enriched by a digital dimension that is part of what is now called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the future, billions of machines, systems, and sensors will be able to communicate with each other and exchange information in real time. In this Internet of Things, a company can make its production much more efficient and gear it much more flexibly to the needs of customers. Information technology, telecommunications, and manufacturing are merging, creating an environment in which a component will be able to co-determine its own production.
The digital portfolio consists of software for different domains, digital services, digital platforms and offerings for digitally enhanced electrification and automation. Siemens offers its customers a broader range than any other company. We merge the physical and virtual worlds. This is reflected in the company’s PLM software, with which products are developed and thoroughly tested in the virtual sphere before a single screw is turned in the real world and it is a prime example of what this fusion can accomplish. Thanks to simulation technology products can be brought to market up to 50 percent faster than with conventional development and testing – and with at least the same level of quality. This process, which Siemens refers to as the creation of a digital twin, involves the development of a model of a part or product, into which components of different designs can be inserted and tested at every stage of the development chain.
And with MindSphere Siemens offers a cloud-based, open operating system for developing applications. This allows for innovative solutions, making it possible to bring products to market more quickly and more efficiently, with better quality. MindSphere allows to improve the efficiency of systems by collecting and analyzing huge amounts of production data. Mechanical engineers and plant engineers can use the platform to monitor machine fleets spread across the world for service purposes, reduce their downtimes, and thus offer new business models. It also forms the basis for data-based services from Siemens and third parties, such as predictive maintenance, energy data management or optimization of resources. MindSphere is yet another important building block in the company’s digitalization strategy.
The Foundation of Siemens’ Innovative Strength
He played a crucial role in the development of the electrical industry and founded a global enterprise in the 19th century. However, the career of Werner von Siemens began like that of today’s start-up founders: with an innovative idea and a workshop in a backyard.
In the mid-19th century, a small, square box weighing about ten kilograms marked the birth of the pointer telegraph. The device, which was developed by artillery officer and inventor Werner von Siemens in a backyard in Berlin in 1847, ushered in a new era of electric telegraphy. The protagonist of this story had a mindset similar to that of today’s start-up founders; it was characterized by an unshakable faith in his innovation, his skill, and a venturesome spirit, which was not dampened by early failures. “I am now firmly resolved to make a strong career out of telegraphy,” he wrote to his brother William in December 1846. Indeed, only five months after he filed a patent for his telegraph in May 1847, he and Johann Georg Halske founded “Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske.” In the following year, the young company was awarded a contract to build Prussia’s first electric telegraph line from Berlin to Frankfurt am Main. One year later, news of the resolutions of the Frankfurt National Assembly, the first German parliament, was telegraphed across a distance of roughly 500 kilometers to Berlin in less than an hour. In those days, this was a veritable sensation and became the basis for the later worldwide fame of “Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske.”
Siemens is celebrating the 200th birthday of its founder in 2016. Werner von Siemens’ legacy continues to this day, in the many brilliant minds that stand behind the Siemens name and are responsible for the company’s innovative strength.