Blog written by Erik Nijveld – Managing Partner of TechnologyCatalogue.com
Recently, I had the pleasure to read the book Radical Innovation – Everybody can if they know how, written by Steinar Wasa Tverlid. Steinar and I have known each other for a long time, from the mid-nineties when we were both working at one of the research institutes of Ecole des Mines de Paris, in Sophia-Antipolis, a technology park in the south of France. I have always been impressed by the combination of skills that Steinar possesses. Steinar has the capacity to think long-term and strategically. He is able to break long-term, strategic challenges into manageable building blocks, and has the skills to work these building blocks in a practical, hands-on manner. Also, he clearly has a ‘nose’ for technology and has excellent interpersonal skills. There are not that many people that I know that have this combination of characteristics! The book that Steinar wrote contains many valuable lessons, and I would definitely recommend people who are or will be leading/working on radical innovation to read the book and apply the learnings.
On 29th September 2020, Steinar will talk about radical innovation in a webinar organized by TechnologyCatalogue.com. I will be the host for the webinar and will facilitate the Q&A.
Although TechnologyCatalogue.com does not focus on radical innovation, there is still a seamless fit with what we do. In this blog, I will explain what the link is!
Click here for more information.
Let me start with my personal experience with radical innovation. I started working at Shell in 1998, and joined a team working on expandable tubular technology, one of Shell’s strategic technologies at the time. The ‘moonshot’ that was being aimed with the technology was a monodiameter well: a well of one diameter from top to bottom. The monodiameter ‘moonshot’ concept was developed and worked by a team of people with different backgrounds and from across the organization. The team structure later on significantly helped the deployment drive.
Although the ultimate monodiameter well has never happened (and will likely never happen), various of the building blocks did happen and delivered significant value over the past twenty years, such as expandable casing liners and cased hole clads. See for example paper SPE 101222, "Solid- Expandable-Tubular Technology: Case Histories of Value-Adding and Enabling Applications in Sabah Deepwater Campaign”, of which I was one of the authors. [Source].
Following the initial work, technology was handed over to service companies for product development and commercialization. In parallel, pull was being created from the End-Users in assets and projects for deployment, with and through the same group of people that were involved in the development of the moonshot and the underlying building blocks.
Interestingly enough, the approach we took at the time was very much in line with Steinar’s practical guide for Radical Innovation. It was however never systematically embedded across the organization in the following years, and also never written up in a book or a guideline.
Steinar did do that, based on his experience over the years with radical innovation in Equinor and other companies. Although Steinar doesn’t use the term ‘moonshot’ in his book, the concept he describes is similar. What is particularly powerful is his practical guidance on how to define and deliver the ‘moonshots’, particularly by using virtual team models, drawing resources from various parts of the organisation. And there are many other best practices that he shares!
How TechnologyCatalogue.com can support radical innovation
TechnologyCatalogue.com was developed based on the first-hand experience that it is often difficult for decision-makers to stay up to date on available technology-driven improvement opportunities for their business. It is effectively a 24/7 digital exhibition, whereby suppliers can create visibility for their technology, and whereby End-Users have technologies at their fingertips. Reviews and deployment references give End-Users the confidence to replicate the technology in their asset or project.
TechnologyCatalogue.com does not only contain proven technologies; it also contains technologies at lower TRL levels. Although the initial focus has been on the Energy industry, the set-up of the platform is such that it can easily be extended to other industries, allowing cross-fertilization. What may be radical in the Oil & Gas industry may already be standard in other industries, and the platform will support the transfer of technology from one industry to the other.
Over time the functionally of the platform will be enhanced further. For example, we will introduce functionality whereby companies can express their needs such that suppliers know whom to target with which solution; at the moment, we currently already make the link between business needs and solutions, but more in a manual way.
Going back to radical innovation: the moment a ‘moonshot’ is developed and broken up in manageable building blocks, it is time to go out. And although the moonshot itself may well be confidential or even most confidential, the required building blocks are likely not, and solutions may already exist for those building blocks. And this is where TechnologyCatalogue.com comes in.
And yes, in many (most) cases, the IP of the technology may be with the supplier, but does that matter? As an Operator, you can create a competitive edge by applying the technology better and faster than anyone else, including combining them with other building blocks in a clever way. As long as you’re not restricted from using the technology, there is no issue not owning the IP. The value is in the deployment, not in owning the technology.
Radical Innovation versus Incremental Innovation
Throughout the years, I have seen many heated debates about the role of internal R&D departments at large Energy companies. Should R&D focus on Radical Innovation or Incremental Innovation? Or both? And what should the balance be?
My views have shifted over the years, to the simple point that I now believe that the R&D of companies like Shell and Equinor should only focus on Radical Innovation. Operators need to define the Radical Innovation ‘moonshots’ inhouse (in line with what Steinar describes in his book), and likely will have to do some initial work on the building blocks. But from that point onwards, it is far more effective to leverage the supply chain and seek solutions from suppliers for each building block.
The areas that require radical innovation need to be driven by business needs. For example, a starting point for Oil & Gas Upstream can be your hydrocarbon resources and to ensure that there is a “plan for every barrel"; many Oil & Gas companies are sitting on fields that cannot be developed today, because the cost is prohibitive, or for example because today’s technology is simply not good enough.
For incremental innovation, things are more straightforward in my mind: incremental innovation can all be left in the hands of external suppliers. Just let the outside world know what your needs are. Or browse through platforms such as
TechnologyCatalogue.com to already know what is available to address your needs. The platform currently already contains >300 technologies. Our aim is to reach 500 by the end of the year, and >5000 in a few years’ time.
Naturally, as an Operator, you do need people who effectively manage the interface between your business and the external world. You also need to be able to get the technology deployed and replicated across your company, this way delivering value. If you need any support: we can help you to streamline your technology organization, to ensure that you select the right technologies and to ensure that the technologies are sustainably embedded in the business.
Radical Innovation – Everybody can if they know how! The book that Steinar Wasa Tverlid wrote contains many valuable lessons, and I would definitely recommend people who are or will be leading/working on radical innovation to read the book and to apply the learnings.
As soon as you have developed radical innovation concepts, it is important to break them down in manageable building blocks, and to leverage the supply chain. This is where TechnologyCatalogue.com comes in. The platform can help to identify solutions from the Energy industry as well as other industries to address your business needs.
I welcome your comments on this blog. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further!
About Erik Nijveld
Erik has a strong track record of leading the development and deployment of technology, resulting in extraordinary business outcomes. He is managing partner and co-founder of TechnologyCatalogue.com, the fastest-growing technology platform that aims to connect Oil & Energy companies with innovative technology. The platform was developed based on first-hand experience that it is often difficult for decision-makers to stay up to date on available technology-driven improvement opportunities for their business. The platform helps technology providers to create more visibility for their technologies. As end-user, you have technologies at your fingertips.
Before starting TechnologyCatalogue.com, Erik worked for 19 years at Shell; in his last role, he was Technology Deployment Manager. In his role, he set up Shell’s “Technology Replication Thrust for Production Excellence”, which is considered one of the most
successful technology deployment vehicles that the company has ever seen. Prior to this, he held various other roles related to development and deployment of technology, covering subsurface, wells as well as facilities technologies. He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Twente and received an MBA from Rotterdam School of Management.