Head of Disruptive Research & Technology, Senior Vice President at Airbus.
Nowadays, industries must adapt and innovate rapidly to remain competitive in an increasingly interconnected world with fast-progressing glocalization. As a result, cross-industry collaboration and learning have become essential drivers of innovation, fostering unique opportunities to share knowledge, limited resources and expertise. As someone who has actively driven innovation in consumer electronics at Qualcomm, automotive at Siemens VDO/Continental, and aerospace at Airbus, I have gained valuable insights into the innovative ecosystems of these industries and their potential for cross-industry learning and collaborations.
Consumer Electronics, Automotive And Aerospace
The consumer electronics industry is characterized by its agility and rapid pace of innovation, often operating on a two-year cycle. At Qualcomm, I focused on end customers and creating a new market, constantly iterating and experimenting with new technologies and business models. This customer-centric and technology-driven approach enabled us to remain at the forefront of innovation. Consumer electronics companies are technology and marketing-driven and often engage in various business models, making them IP sensitive and open to experimentation. In addition, they actively collaborate with startups, research institutions and other technology-driven organizations, creating a productive ground for groundbreaking innovations.
While at Siemens VDO and Continental, I was involved in the automotive industry’s transformation toward electric, connected and more digital vehicle platforms. Historically a cost and process-driven industry with a cycle of about seven to 10 years, automotive is shifting to a more vertical and technology-driven approach. As tier-1, I collaborated closely with OEMs, like, e.g., Porsche, BMW, AMG and other tier-2 suppliers, to develop new technologies, mostly embracing a build-to-print model pushed top-down by OEMs. In addition, the automotive industry has also started to embrace the digital revolution, incorporating advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and always connected cars with sustainability remaining as a primary focus.
The aerospace industry has very long product cycles, counted in decades. Similarly to other industries, the current emphasis is on sustainability, digitization, connectivity and autonomy. In addition, this industry is developing aerospace-specific technologies and is also adopting technologies from consumer electronics and automotive sectors to accelerate innovation.
Consumer electronics excel at speed and agility, allowing companies to respond quickly to market demands. Automotive and aerospace can partially adopt this approach to accelerate innovation and better address customers’ needs, especially around digital innovation. Safety and regulatory compliance are paramount in the automotive and aerospace industries, shaping their approach to innovation. While consumer electronics companies face fewer regulatory constraints, they can benefit from learning about risk management and robust design practices. Capital intensity varies across these industries, with aerospace requiring significant long-term investments. Consumer electronics and automotive companies can learn from the aerospace industry’s focus on long-term value creation and strategic acquisitions.
To drive cross-industry innovation, companies should build and nurture innovation ecosystems that promote collaboration, enabling them to tap into external resources and expertise. Embracing open innovation and actively seeking external partnerships can lead to new ideas, technologies and business models, helping companies overcome challenges and stay competitive. One way to foster these partnerships is by collaborating with startups through venture client units, which facilitate the integration of innovative solutions from startups into large organizations. This approach allows companies to access cutting-edge technology while startups gain valuable experience and customers.
Hybrid organizations combine the agility and innovation of startups with the resources and scale of large companies. They can also help speed up innovation across industries. By adopting a hybrid organizational structure, companies can create an agile environment that encourages experimentation and rapid learning, ultimately driving innovation in consumer electronics, automotive and aerospace sectors.
Cross-industry collaboration enables the transfer of technology and expertise, leading to innovative applications and solutions across sectors. Managing intellectual property, technology licensing and data sharing is critical for successful cross-industry collaboration. Companies must establish clear guidelines and legal frameworks to protect their interests while promoting open innovation.
Innovation strategies can be shaped by drawing inspiration from the unique approaches of each industry. For example, the consumer electronics industry’s rapid adaptation to changing customer needs and embracing new business models can be applied to other sectors. Likewise, the automotive industry’s focus on process optimization and cost-efficiency can help streamline operations and make new technologies more accessible. Meanwhile, the aerospace industry’s emphasis on safety and long-term planning can help mitigate risks and ensure the responsible development and implementation of new technologies with long-term impact, e.g., in the area of sustainability.
A robust governance structure that supports and nurtures innovation is essential for organizations across industries. This includes setting up dedicated innovation teams, providing resources and incentives, and establishing clear communication channels between different departments and stakeholders. Organizations should also encourage cross-functional collaboration, which can lead to breakthrough innovations by combining expertise from various fields.
The convergence of industries creates opportunities for talent mobility, enabling professionals to transition between sectors and organizations to attract talent from other industries. This cross-pollination of ideas and expertise can foster the development of innovative solutions that address shared challenges.
Unity Through Collaboration
Cross-industry learning and collaboration, especially now, are vital for driving innovation in consumer electronics, automotive and aerospace sectors. By adopting the best practices and lessons learned from each industry, companies can navigate the challenges of sustainability and digitalization and remain competitive in the fast-changing global market. The experience in these industries has shown that the power of cross-industry innovation is enormous. When harnessed effectively, it can lead to exceptional growth and progress in addressing global challenges, paving the way for a more sustainable, digital and connected world. Furthermore, by integrating strategies such as venture client units and hybrid organizations, companies can further accelerate their innovation efforts and maximize the potential of cross-industry collaboration. Companies should also consider forming consortiums or industry alliances to collectively address shared challenges and develop new industry standards.
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