Between two other meetings Mario Hehle has time for a chat. He’s just returned from Asia, where he’s been spending a lot of time recently, talking with industry experts and startup companies, and attending major, exclusive industry events. “Asia is providing Silicon Valley with some strong competition in the east,” he says. In addition to its proximity to such excellent universities as Stanford and UC Berkeley, Silicon Valley has one primary advantage: Startups there can access money quickly and easily. “The Chinese government is currently heavily expanding the infrastructure for collaboration on research and startups in the Greater Bay Area around Hong Kong. It will become one of the world’s leading innovation regions,” Hehle explains. The scene is growing rapidly, and innovative capacity along with it. Hong Kong and Shenzhen are doing their best to supersede Palo Alto and Mountain View.
Asia has always played an important role for Heraeus. The group makes more than 40 percent of its revenue there. But the region—along with other hotspots like Israel, Singapore, and London—is gaining significance for completely different reasons. In these times of ubiquitous disruption, Heraeus is realigning its innovation management—while adopting the recipes for success of the startup culture. “We want to innovate more efficiently,” says Hehle. One way to do this is by introducing agile working philosophies. Hehle thinks that one of the major factors in this involves breaking down the silo mentalities and collaborating across departments. “Our company is overflowing with expertise, and others can benefit from it. We have to share these best practices with each other.” The Innovation Excellence project is focusing on changing the company culture itself.