29 April 2015

This is how Neste develops innovations


Innovations are crucial to Neste's success. Their development is accelerated with an innovation system that has already redeemed its promises. For example, the idea for a product that is the world's best in its class emerged in the system.

Neste launched an interesting innovation-related project around five years ago. It answers a challenge that faces organizations of all kinds.

"People have enormous potential for developing new things. Ideas are discussed during work and around coffee tables. The challenge is to get these insights on paper and use them in product development projects," says innovation coordinator Pirjo Kuuppo.

As Kuuppo's title suggests, Neste wants to invest in enhancing its innovation culture. Kuuppo reminds us that the company has enjoyed a good reputation in this respect over the past few decades. A refining company must continuously develop new technology and top expertise, as it determines the company's success.

However, Neste wants to accelerate this development. An interesting innovation system has been adopted to help in this.

"To avoid ideas from falling into a black hole"

The system for developing innovation was adopted in 2010. Among other features, it includes an idea tool and a process for managing ideas.

"The Orkidea (Orchid) application for innovation is used by all employees in theory," Petri Lehmus, VP, Research and Technology. "Employees can invite their colleagues and develop new ideas together."

New ideas are initially kept in the system for refining. After that, the business units and experts systematically review ideas concerning their fields and select some of them for further development.

"In the system, it is also possible to throw down challenges concerning solutions needed in the company," Kuuppo says. "It is important to have the R&D functions and different business units communicating well with each other. This prevents ideas from falling into a black hole."

Suitable tool for each need

The software is not the only innovation tool. According to Kuuppo, Neste arranges a lot of innovation workshops.

"We have 50 trained facilitators who have diverse tools at their disposal. They choose the most suitable of them for different meetings. This has turned out to be a very functional solution."

However, according to Kuuppo, it is good not to leave innovation to development meetings alone. "If a single person manages innovation, for example, others might not dare to voice their thoughts. This can result in losing many good ideas."

"People are different. Some want to act quickly, while others want to consider things in peace. Therefore, it is important for us to have diverse tools," Lehmus says.

All methods therefore have their own roles, and the innovation system aims to support the big picture.

"Some ideas may have been gestating for years. When they are introduced into the innovation system, they finally materialize," Pirjo Kuuppo says. "At the same time, we can better see what happens to innovations, and their processing can be monitored."

World's best diesel came from the innovation system

One example of the concrete results is Neste Pro Diesel. It is a very advanced diesel fuel and the only fuel to obtain car manufacturers' tightest fuel classification.

"The idea for this product came via the Orkidea system," Kuuppo reveals.

Even though results have been achieved, the development of the innovation system and culture will continue.

According to Lehmus, business units, for example, are encouraged to assume more responsibility for their own innovation culture.

"The aim is that if no ideas come up in a unit, they should be deeply worried."

At the same time, the intent is to make developing new things as easy and fun as possible. "We are aiming to make the system something a bit like social media," Kuuppo says. "We are hoping that people will go there to see what interesting things they can find there."