It’s the mixture that counts.

Innovation is often referred to as the creative motor of the economy. But what is it exactly, and above all what do we personally understand by the term “innovation”? In the Krones Innovation Lab, I joined forces with my colleagues to investigate this question. We wanted to know what innovation signifies for each individual in our team. In a single sentence. The results were many and varied. Almost as varied as the disparate specialisms that fuel the lab’s shared R&D work. My colleague Sarah Rohrer has summarised the different views and results involved here in this article.

We see innovation as firstly transcending the boundaries of received wisdom, acceptance of risk, including the possibility of failure, and thinking outside the box. But above all, innovation flourishes when everything intermeshes and we jointly develop new solutions.

It’s precisely on this point that everyone concurred: innovation is created as a joint effort. And what could be better suited for this purpose than a multi-specialism think tank of the kind we possess. Good ideas can rarely be forced, admittedly, but the Innovation Lab offers ideally fertile soil for growing new ideas, thanks not least to its start-up character, and its location in the midst of a steadily growing eco-system between other start-ups and colleges at the TechBase. Agile methods, free choice of workplace or a whole room for ideas create an open and productive working atmosphere.

Interdisciplinary working

An MBA graduate, an engineer, a designer and a medical technician are sitting in a boat. That probably sounds like the beginning of a joke at first. But it most definitely isn’t. On the contrary: it’s one of the best ways to foster and progress innovative ideas.

Interdisciplinary working has been prioritised in the Krones Innovation Lab ever since it was inaugurated in 2016. Sarah, an art student, is particularly familiar with its implications.

“I’m probably the prime example here in the lab. In its most recent project, I helped to develop and program circuits, and soldered PCBs. And now I know quite a bit about sensors. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to input my own expertise, through styling proposals, poster designs and animations.”

All our activities help to shape the beverage supply of tomorrow, and to evaluate the ideas of the day after. Here, we examine both technical feasibility and new business models. Alex, a mechanical engineering student, explains what this actually means in practice.

“It’s great that here we all support each other. There’s lots of shared brainstorming using agile methods – and huge quantities of post-it notes. It really motivates you, of course, when you see within a minimised timeframe how many opportunities there are. I’ve already learned an immense amount from the others. For instance, we have trained each other in workshops, so as to share our knowledge.”

This collaborative approach is bearing fertile fruit, as evidenced by the numerous projects that are now being progressed in Krones AG.

It’s the mixture that counts, you see.