Dr. Alex Fensore Associate Director of Innovation, Sherwin Williams speaks with TechConnect News.
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Sherwin-Williams.
My role as Associate Director of the Innovation Resource Center and External Innovation teams focuses on the following areas:
• Developing Next Generation and Breakthrough technology platforms that can launched to multiple Divisions within Sherwin-Williams simultaneously
• Scouting for technologies and processes in industries adjacent to coatings that can be used to overcome technical hurdles to create new and impactful experiences for our customers
• Collaborating with organizations outside of SHW to secure government funding that enables long term research and development efforts
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
We are actively seeking new technologies from adjacent industries, small companies, start-ups, government labs, and research institutes to enable breakthrough coatings performance for the following cross-division business drivers: Custom Solutions/Smart Coatings, Maintenance & Durability, The Painting Process/Make It Easy & Fast, Visual Appearance, and Sustainability.
The identification and development of innovative technologies outside of the coatings arena will enable teams across Sherwin-Williams to create products that will ultimately empower customers to accomplish “Jobs To Be Done” that create a unique experience.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
We welcome all levels of commercial maturity in scouting for technology partnerships. With an end goal to commercialize the technology in our products, a successful partnership should include a plan or a feasible route to commercialization.
Tell us why innovation is important to your company and how this model supports your efforts to find new innovations. Could you describe 1-2 policies or programs your company has in place to support external innovation?
The focus of all our innovation activities at Sherwin-Williams is the customer. At Sherwin-Williams, we believe in customer inspired innovation to create one of a kind user experience. We do this several ways, innovation at Sherwin-Williams begins with the customer, through a robust Voice of the Customer process to identify the needs of the customer. With the needs of the customer, the divisional innovation labs are engaged to find possible approaches to solve the problem. For unidentified technology needs, divisional labs, engage the External Innovation team to provide connections to external technology partners such as universities & startups. Fortunately for us our employees are also our customers and are encouraged to share new ideas, concepts and approaches in are given the opportunity to work on them as exploratory projects.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
A major challenge for any scouting team is to search/identify technology partners to be able to engage with them. With more and more companies bringing their technology to the market, TechConnect is a great hub to meet and network with potential technology partners all around the world under one roof. By participating in TechConnect, we as a corporate partner have the opportunity to engage with several potential technology partners in one location create connections that we can pursue.
We look forward to meeting old network contacts to catch up with their progress and learning about new companies and their offerings to assess their fit to our needs.
What did you like most about the 2017 TechConnect World Conference?
The event had a great blend of networking activities and direct presentations. As a corporate partner, it was helpful to identify organizations we wanted to meet directly with ahead of time. Having the booth also enabled many unscheduled conversations and interactions.