How our mission drives our investment decisions.14/05/2021
Dr Maurizio Pilu, Managing Director of the Safetytech Accelerator discusses how our mission informs our decisions around what projects and programmes we invest in.
Safetytech Accelerator is a mission-led organisation. Our mission is making the industrial world safer and more sustainable through the wider adoption of emerging digital technologies applied to safety and risk – what we call safetytech. Read safetytech accelerator the other way round: we are about accelerating (adoption of) safetytech.
The accelerator executes this mission by being an open and trusted collaboration platform, bringing together corporates – the problem owners – and cutting-edge technology companies to pilot solutions to difficult safety and risk challenges that are common across a sector or subsector. In doing so we also help early-stage technology businesses get a foot hold in complex industrial markets.
We punch above our weight because we do things with the support of 260 years of deep market and regulatory expertise of our founder and partner Lloyd’s Register, their wider network of clients and stakeholder and a significant degree of market access that could act as an amplifier to promising innovations that can change sectors.
But how does this mission translate into our day-to-day decisions on what challenge, collaboration and projects we work on? In this short piece I would like to articulate the logic and the methodology behind the main aspect of what we do: creating collaborations to solve tough challenges that result in cutting-edge safetytech pilots.
Firstly we want to work on safety and risk challenges that really matter.
We ask ourselves the following questions:
- Is there a big safety and risk impact if the challenge is addressed? This is the main starting point for us, because we want to make a difference. For this to be the case, the challenge must be common across industry, and either unsolved, or more commonly, facing barriers preventing wider adoption.
- What are the drivers of change that would make decision makers want to solve that challenge, and why now?
- Are there systemic, non-technical barriers that realistically can’t be addressed?
- Can a technology make a real difference, and is it clear how?
Secondly, we need to find out if there is a robust business case for the client or problem owner to collaborate.
The chance of innovations having an impact rely on market pull, and our approach, inspired by ‘design thinking’, starts and ends with the client. So we explore these questions with the client:
- Is there a strong case for working on this innovation and is the senior sponsorship strong enough?
- Does solving this challenge matter, and how? Businesses have many challenges that technological innovation can help solve – is this challenge high in the list of priorities?
- Can the challenge be solved in a different way? Oftentimes technological innovation to solve a problem is not successful because it is simply not needed – the status quo is better, cheaper, faster etc.
- Is there a reasonable hypothesis that if the project is successful the client would adopt and deploy the solution trialled through Safetytech Accelerator?
Next, we ask if there is a good match with a technology partner.
This is of course a core competence of any accelerator, or in fact anyone doing open innovation, especially with startups. But at Safetytech Accelerator, in addition to technical and commercial due diligence that we do in collaboration with our ventures team, we can draw on a layer of market, application and regulatory expertise that is quite unique.
We ask ourselves in discussion with the prospective tech partner:
- Can their tech solution solve the challenge? How? How well? This is a basic question, but often it is much harder to answer than it looks due to the high number of unknowns around certain challenges.
- Is the technology market ready, or needing small adaptations to fit the problem? An accelerator is not an R&D vehicle, it’s about innovation. But at the same time if a client can buy the tech off the shelf, clearly the challenge is probably taken care of already and the accelerator would not add much value.
- Is this a meaningful engagement for them, and are they committed to it? This ensures that the tech partner is willing to go all the way, and that they see value beyond the immediate pilot opportunity, for instance if they are trying to understand and/or enter the maritime market or refine their product pre-scaling.
- Do they have the ability to execute the pilot? And if the pilot is successful, would they be able to scale it to a deployment, at least with the client that has sponsored the challenge? This is quite important, as while the technology may work, a particular application to a challenge, or with a specific client may entail aspects they are not able to execute, for instance human factors expertise. Oftentimes we can support by drawing experts from elsewhere.
Now we look at whether all this can result in a great pilot:
- Does the pilot truly address the challenge and the barriers to adoption?
- Is it feasible in terms of scope, time, budget? These apply also to innovation pilots, not just large technology projects.
- Is the cost-benefit balance of the solution right for the client? Note that this is not only about the cost of the tech or its deployment, but also the benefit, and it’s down to the specific solution to a specific problem in a specific context.
- Is there a scaling hypothesis for the solution trialled in the pilot? This is not just with the immediate client, but how would it work with similar clients or the sector, and is intimately related to the potential for impact of the pilot, as well as the upside for the technology partner to collaborate.
- If fully adopted, would the impact be big? This is a corollary question to the potential impact of solving the challenge that we saw earlier, but it’s more specific to the solution being trialled.
Last but not least we ask whether Safetytech Accelerator can add value.
- Is the innovation component strong, or complex? Often non-technical problems can be solved through e.g. a better process rather than technology innovation.
- Can we make something happen that would have not happened easily, faster or equally well otherwise?
- Is Safetytech Accelerator adding value to the client and the technology partner? Meaning, has the accelerator or its partner Lloyd’s Register, brought an advantage (e.g. specific expertise) that increases the chances of a pilot or activity being successful?
Clearly there are many dimensions and rarely are the answers clear cut. There simply are unknowns that are inherent in the typical risk of technology innovation projects.
This approach is less complicated than it looks and it has a distinct benefit in providing a systematic and repeatable approach for discussions with prospective partners, the accelerator team and its advisors. We also find that this methodology allows clients to engage in design thinking and opportunity-mapping activities to shape and prioritise problems and possible solutions. And you can see the results of some of our collaborations here.
If you would like to discuss how we can collaborate please do get in touch using the contact form.