As the trend in Europe and France towards the circular economy dips, sustainable innovation or “Eco-innovation” is becoming a key factor in competitiveness for companies. Nanoelec, in collaboration with ITE Ines.2s, is developing a flash diagnostic for the innovation projects run
with SMEs, mid-caps and startups, under the Easytech initiative, run by Minalogic. Elise Monnier (CEA-Liten) and Peggy Zwolinsky (Grenoble-INP) coordinated the pilot phase in 2021 on behalf of IRT Nanoelec and ITE Ines.2s. They look back at the various aspects of this approach.
DEFI-INO IS A FLASH DIAGNOSTIC OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIETAL IMPACT OF AN INNOVATION PROJECT. HOW IS IT ORGANIZED?
Elise Monnier – At IRT Nanoelec and indeed at ITE Ines.2S, companies come along with a project aiming to integrate a new technology into a process, product or service. Defi-Ino aims to reinforce the project assessment and evaluation criteria. This is a flash diagnostic: it takes 1 day and costs about 1,000 euros. The company is interviewed by an expert who provides them with a confidential analysis of the weak and
strong points of the project and its business model, in terms of its environmental and societal footprint.
Peggy Zwolinsky – In less than a full day of work, experts and members of the company management jointly identify possible routes for improvement to cope with eco-design requirements. This preliminary work can then be supplemented by a true eco-innovation approach focused on the project and the company,
backed by public policy support for the circular economy.
YOU CARRIED OUT THE PILOT PHASE IN 2021. WERE THE COMPANIES CONVINCED?
Peggy Zwolinsky – 8 volunteer companies – 5 of which came through the Easytech initiative from IRT Nanoelec and 3 through Ines.2S – took part in this pilot phase. Their projects were analyzed by 4 categories of experts: two public laboratories (CEA, with its Liten institute and its collaborative innovation platform Y-Spot and Grenoble-INP, via its G-SCOP laboratory) and two private firms (Circulab and SolidCreativity).
Elise Monnier – The participating companies are urging us to continue with this initiative. Their feedback confirms that they know that eco-design, eco-innovation and the circular economy are now key factors in their competitiveness. This feedback also enables us to fine-tune the Défi-Ino offering to be designed and marketed , as several types of diagnostic have been tested.
PRECISELY, WHAT “TOOLS” DO THE COMPANIES CONSIDER TO BE MOST USEFUL?
Elise Monnier – The companies all agree that this face-to-face work outside the context of the company with a team of experts, but also with members of the team not directly involved in R&D (marketing, communication, finance, etc.) generates considerable added value. The brainstorming phases are all the more productive.
Peggy Zwolinsky – More “analytical” diagnostics also make an important contribution: they objectively confirm certain assumptions. For the companies, this is a guarantee of credibility and responsibility.
CAN DEFI-INO BE APPLIED TO ALL TYPES OF PROJECTS?
Peggy Zwolinsky – Prior to the diagnostic, it is worth questioning the technological maturity of the product and of the company itself with regard to eco-innovation. The diagnostic would appear to be vital for relatively immature products or companies with respect to the question of the societal and environmental impact. In the case of an established product, the diagnostic can also be of use if the company proves lacks
expertise and resources in eco-innovation.
HOW DO COMPANIES ASSIMILATE THE APPROACH AND THE RESULTS?
Elise Monnier – Generally speaking, companies use this to improve how they communicate regarding their offering (with both customers and investors) and to open up new fields of innovation for their concepts. In the pilot phase, many extended the initiative in a variety of ways. For example, one of them now has an engineer who devotes 1 day a week to eco-design; another is focusing on the search for solutions
concerning a point raised in the diagnostic: recycling; a third is now incorporating eco-design into its future projects.
Peggy Zwolinsky – This shows us that even with methods that differ from one project to another, the diagnostic, in all cases, acts as a catalyst for what comes after. Even for companies already aware of the social and economic aspects, for whom Défi-Ino brings credibility to the approach.
WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO A “WINNING” DIAGNOSTIC?
Peggy Zwolinsky – The auditor must have expertise in questions of sustainability and in the use of their tools, because the absence of data makes it hard to analyze a product or service lacking in maturity. This is all the more important because in one half-day it is possible to rapidly reach banal or even erroneous recommendations if the expert does not master the concepts of sustainable development and the diagnostic technique. Their high level of qualification helps to ensure that, although extremely fast, the diagnostic incorporates a “lifecycle” approach, provides a systemic vision, allows an understanding of impact transfers and, finally, provides a 360° overview of the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, environmental, societal).
Elise Monnier – Moreover, in order to be efficient and effective, the approach must be “sponsored” at the optimum level of company governance. The personal convictions of the manager are decisive in ensuring that the flash diagnostic actually leads to tangible action.