Sia Partners embarks on USA innovation trip for UAE government client

31 January 2019

Management consultancy Sia Partners has embarked on an innovation tour of the US on behalf of a UAE government partner, returning with several key takeaways.

Global strategy and management consultancy Sia Partners has conducted an innovation exploration visit to the East Coast of the US, meeting with Fortune 500 companies, leading start-ups and academic institutions in Boston and New York to explore ideas on innovation for one of the firm’s key UAE government clients – where Sia has two of its four Middle Eastern offices (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) in addition to locations in Doha and Riyadh.  

In the resultant report, ‘Boston: Another Molecule in the Mole of Innovation. Will There Be an Avogadro of Innovation?’ (which isn’t a reference to guacamole and avocados but instead refers to the innovative 19th century Italian scientist Amadeo Avogadro who lends his name to a unit of molecular measurement), author and UAE-based Sia manager Cesar Moukarzel outlines the key takeaways from the trip – which was a component of the consulting firm’s larger global innovation programme.

The programme, which primarily consists of building organisational capabilities and defining key challenges and issues related to a partner’s undertakings – “leading to finding the right solutions at the right timing with the right resources” – is certified by the Global Innovation Management Institute (GIMI). Recently, in association with GIMI and IXL, Sia Partners gave a keynote address on leading disruptive innovation for leaders of the Dubai Government.

Sia Partners embarks on USA innovation trip for UAE government client

As to the report, firstly it states; “You don’t innovate because you want to, you innovate because you need to!” While noting the contemporarily debatable nature of such a contention, Moukarzel forwards that any innovation journey starts with a well-defined challenge or ‘need’ – such as ‘violence in the streets of Boston in the 90’s’, which Sia in their meeting with local pastor Jeffrey Brown learned of the social innovation measures that led to a nearly 80 percent reduction in crime in just eight years.

With the baseline challenge established, effective innovation efforts then rely on the second takeaway; “Innovation success is about a well-designed Ecosystem”. Boston, says the firm, boasts one of the most established and successful innovation ecosystems in the world, anchored by its large concentration of leading universities and complemented by some of the globe’s most innovative companies and an active start-up scene fueled by the availability of capital.

The consulting firm in its visit to the city was then able to identify the main pillars of a successful innovation ecosystem, centred on the core components of talent, technology, capital, partnerships, and understanding the key challenge – the starting point of an innovation journey. But before that journey can commence, and as a foundational block, perhaps the most important of those pillars is talent – leading to the third innovation takeaway.

“Retain talent and incubate innovation, otherwise you might be a catalyst of your own competitors!’ says the Sia report, with the firm citing a visit to SAP’s ‘impressive’ Innovation Centre in New York and learning of the strong mechanisms the ERP giant has put in place to retain its own entrepreneurs. On the other hand, firms which follow a strict, traditional management approach tend to lose their innovate talent – identified in the report as being passionate, curious and knowledgeable.

So how does any of this relate to a 19th century scientist who identified the number of molecules in a mole of substance? Innovation is a ‘chemical’ reaction, ventures Moukarzel, a process in which ‘substances’ interact together to produce specific outcomes. He concludes; “Like a chemical reaction rearranges the constituent atoms of the reactants to create different substances as products, innovation can result in rearranging players of an entire industry and in reshaping markets.” 

Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in Dubai

18 April 2019

The Middle East branch of international construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has launched a new innovation hub in Dubai

Following the appointment of ex-Ramboll exec Abdulmajid Karanouhas as its Head of Interdisciplinary Design & Innovation earlier this year to spearhead the firm’s R&D drive in the Middle East, the local branch of German-origin construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has now launched a new innovation hub in Dubai – designed as a collaborative environment to serve both external start-ups and its own employees.

“It has always been part of our corporate culture to promote our own ideas and initiatives,” said Drees & Sommer executive board member Steffen Szeidl. “Increasingly, digital transformation and our clients are calling for completely new and disruptive business models. The Innovation Centre is one of our responses to these challenges. All 3,200 staff members can upload their ideas virtually.”

According to Szeidl, from there, promising concepts and solutions addressing identified market gaps in areas such as planning, construction and operations will be developed, funded and localised for any market which sees the potential. He continues: “Adding the Dubai innovation hub emphasises our status as a global innovation company by being one of the few companies doing R&D in this region.”Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in DubaiLocally established in 2003, Drees & Sommer was founded close to 50 years ago in Stuttgart, since growing to include some 40 offices worldwide, with its global headcount of 3,200 professionals generating revenues upwards of $430 million in 2017. The firm’s offerings span the gamut of real estate and infrastructure requirements, delivered according to its ‘blue way’, which takes into account economic, functionality, and ecological aspects together.

This, for Drees & Sommer, is an important point in the regional context.  “There is a huge demand in this market for contextual solutions as most models and systems are imported from abroad with little to no adaptation to the local culture, economy, and environment,” explains Karanouh. “As a consequence of this approach, we are facing major challenges related to user-comfort, efficiency, manageability, durability, and overall sustainability and feasibility of the built environment in the region.”

Accordingly, the firm has tailored each of its innovation hubs rolled out so far across the world to drive specific initiatives. In Aachen, Germany’s ‘Silicon Valley’, for example, there is a focus on customised smart buildings, IoT product testing and cyber-security, while the firm’s Stuttgart hub focuses on start-ups and processes and its Berlin one on smart cities and smart quarters. The Netherlands hub meanwhile focuses on wellbeing and sustainable innovation.

Karanouh: “The innovation hub brings together specialists of various disciplines from across the industry as a single interdisciplinary team that advises clients from early feasibility studies all the way to operation and revitalisation of buildings to maximise comfort, efficiency, sustainability, return of investment and overall value. The platform allows for brainstorming ideas, identifying market gaps and needs, adapting existing solutions or/and developing new solutions tailored to the local market and environment.”