Implenia wants to build on its leading role within the construction sector and has defined four strategic priorities. One of them is innovation. Only companies that keep deploying new insights and technologies to the benefit of their customers will survive in the market in the long term.
But how do innovations come about? It all starts with people and their ideas. At Implenia, around 10,000 employees are working on construction matters every day, and thinking about how to do things even better. Implenia wants to take advantage of this intellectual capital, so in September 2019 it launched the “Innovation HUB”.
The aim is systematically to identify and utilise the new ideas generated throughout the company. These ideas are divided into five categories, including “New Products”, “New Services” and “New Sustainability Solutions”. The cross-disciplinary team at the Innovation HUB is led by Karel van Eechoud and includes representatives from the Sustainability Department.
Implenia set up the “Kickbox” – essentially a platform for new solutions and business models – to include and encourage its employees. Anyone with a suggestion for how things can be done better can submit it easily and spontaneously on line. This starts a three-stage process to test the idea and, if it proves successful, to put it into practice.
In the first step, the “RedBox” phase, the originator of the idea is given a starting budget so they can add concrete detail to their proposal and validate it with internal and external experts. If the idea’s potential is confirmed, it is taken to the next phase – “BlueBox” – where it is piloted in practice.
If the pilot project goes well, and if the idea leads to a genuine improvement on the status quo, the final “GoldBox” phase begins: the innovation is implemented with the support of Implenia’s management and integrated into existing processes.
It didn’t take long after Kickbox’s launched for lots of ideas to enter the RedBox phase; these covered all sorts of areas, including health and safety, modular construction and energy efficiency. Even if only some of them prove themselves in practice, the Innovation HUB will have achieved its first goal. “We want to provide a space to try things out, test things, and for people to challenge themselves,” says Karel van Eechoud. Failure is allowed and sometimes even necessary, he emphasises. “Our motto is: don’t just talk about it, do it!”