Spotlight Interview: Paul France, Vice President-Innovation Systems, MeadWestvaco (MWV)
Paul France speaks with TechConnect about MWV's technology and solution areas of interest
What technology/solution areas do you have a primary interest in?
We are mainly focused on 2 packaging platforms: paper and plastics. For the paper platform, we are seeking technology solutions in the areas of e.g. pulp and paper technology, corrugated technology, functional coatings such as water based barrier and release coatings, extrusion and lamination technology. For the plastic platform, we are matching external solutions with our core capabilities in closures, liquid delivery systems (sprayers and dispensers), bio-plastics, injection molding, thermoforming, etc…
We also have technology needs we are trying to solve that are specific to one of our business units. As an example, for our Health Care division we are mainly interested in technologies that can deliver a breakthrough in pharmaceutical compliance and adherence packaging. For our Consumer and Electronics business unit we seek novel pilfer resistance packaging. More specific examples can be found on our Open Innovation portal http://www.mwvexchange.com.
Could you provide an example of a successful innovation partnership MWV has formed with either a university or start up company? What made the partnership work? What were some of the outcomes from the collaboration?
MWV’s innovation partnership play spans the whole spectrum: from working with universities on very early stage projects to working with suppliers who can bring solutions that are almost ready for commercialization. We work with small start-up companies, spin-offs from universities as well as big multinationals. We work with local entrepreneurs and with inventors who might be living overseas in places such as Brazil, South Africa, Japan, etc…Over the years, these partnerships delivered a wide range of outcomes; from joint development agreements, supplier agreements, licensing and option agreements to equity stakes or acquisitions. The key to success has been to search for technologies that are i) in sync with our business needs (strong market pull) and ii) are 1-3 years from commercialization and benefit from a MWV scale (win-win). We emphasize equally the relationship aspects of a partnership and focus on building trust. For MWV, it is a combination of Know-How and Know-Who.
How does MWV encourage innovation?
MWV follows an insight-driven approach to Innovation. An insight is deep understanding of an unmet or unarticulated need, and the tension it creates, which sparks an intuitive call to action. We discover insights, and use them to create innovative solutions that address unmet or unarticulated packaging needs. We consider the end-to-end impact of potential packaging solutions on all relevant stakeholders.
MWV returns to TechConnect World in 2013 as a Corporate Accelerator Partner. What will you be looking for in D.C. next year? Who will you and your team be looking to meet with onsite?
Specific attention will be given to start-up companies. We are interested in collaborating with small companies that have taken their technology from the lab to the market place but could really benefit from the rapid scale expansion, the global resources, the strong customer engagements, and the deep market and consumer insights MWV has to offer.
What are some of the reasons MWV supports TechConnect World?
The rapid pace of innovation, rising costs of innovation, the “need for speed” and the complexity of the technical challenges, all make a compelling case for external collaboration. Open Innovation is all about ‘How can we tap into the vast external brain trust out there who can help us deliver those sales?’ We are hoping to find and connect with a few of those external collaborators at TechConnect as well as promote to a broader audience MWV’s list of technologies we are seeking.
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