Innovation at Saint-Gobain

R&D objectives are aligned with the Group's needs and ambitions to ensure that Saint-Gobain can compete successfully, explore new horizons and recruit top talent.

All the sectors in which Saint-Gobain operates are changing faster than ever before. The building industry, traditionally perceived as being conservative, is now experiencing major transformations. The competitive environment is becoming tougher every day, and companies must remain agile to anticipate future challenges if they want to develop their business. To meet these challenges, Saint-Gobain places innovation at the heart of its strategy. R&D objectives are aligned with the Group's needs and ambitions to ensure that Saint-Gobain can compete successfully, explore new horizons and recruit top talent.

Listening to market needs

The Group’s strategic growth, combined with the gradual transformation of the habitat and construction markets, has created a spirit of openness and attentiveness to customer needs at Saint-Gobain. To meet customer expectations and anticipate emerging demand, the Group is developing new research skills and fostering a stronger culture of partnership and co-development.

Stronger ties with Group marketing 

R&D and Marketing have been closely working together at all levels for many years. This way of working makes it easier to develop specific responses to market expectations, anticipate emerging needs and shorten time to market.

Cross-business Habitat organizations, now present in 38 countries, foster dialogue among teams involved in innovation processes and help implement inter-Activity innovation projects. This dual focus reflects Saint-Gobain’s powerful development model, through which local projects designed to meet local needs can be supported by the Group's corporate and cross-business innovation capabilities.

Inter-Activity projects are increasingly common. The Group's large cross-functional research centers are also collaborating more and more with local development units inside the Activities, which have a closer view of end markets. 

Developing a culture of eco-innovation

As part of a rigorous improvement approach, Saint-Gobain has set the goal of conducting life cycle assessments for all its building industry product ranges.

“Life cycle assessments are a scientific tool for conducting a multi-criteria analysis of a product’s total potential environmental impacts, from extraction of raw materials to production, distribution, installation, use, end of service life and recycling.”

Once the environmental footprint has been measured, the Group can use the life cycle assessments to start reducing these products’ environmental impact while creating value. This is the dual objective of Saint-Gobain’s eco-innovation strategy. For the Group, eco-innovation should provide customers with real value-added by offering products and solutions that minimize the environmental impact of buildings and infrastructure across their full life cycle. A product or solution is eco-innovative if it helps reduce the use of resources (notably energy and water) in buildings and infrastructure and/or if it has a smaller environmental impact across its life cycle.

Many examples demonstrate the growing percentage of eco-innovative products and solutions in the Group’s innovation portfolio. Saint-Gobain’s commitment to this initiative can be seen in the following market successes.

2009 : PAM's Blutop lighter-weight pipes
2010 : Saint-Gobain Glass’s Miralite Revolution lead-free mirrors
2012 : weber.therm A200 composite external wall insulation systems combined with weber.pas top surface coating
2013 : Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics’ new range of Tygon® bio-sourced phthalate- and BPA-free tubing
2013 : Saint-Gobain Sekurit’s sgs CoolCoat heat reflective windshield that reduces the need for air conditioning, thereby lowering fuel consumption for an environmentally friendly result

Saint-Gobain’s objective is to spread this culture of eco-innovation more systematically throughout its organization. This means creating awareness and providing in-depth training for researchers, as well as for marketing, purchasing, health-environment-safety and production teams. Eco-innovation is systemic and requires continuous dialogue among all the functions involved. Teams will need a common vocabulary and tools to define objectives, as well as the necessary resources to achieve those objectives.

Saint-Gobain has been deploying specific training programs in the Activities and country organizations since mid-2012 to inform all managers and their teams about the integration of eco-innovation in existing innovation processes. These efforts continued in 2013 and will be expanded in the years ahead.

Researchers, a driving force

Research is a valuable talent pool and source of attractiveness for Saint-Gobain. 

Being attentive to the outside world and how it is changing will be a determining factor in the Group's long-term competitiveness and attractiveness. Research and innovation play a key role in this area, both internally and externally. Developing new research centers and partnerships is a major focus of Saint-Gobain’s innovation strategy, as well as a way to ensure the vitality of a very high-level recruitment network.

Hiring high-potential researchers benefits the entire Group. Research is a valuable talent pool for Saint-Gobain’s Activities. Today, around 4.5% of the Group’s research managers are likely to gravitate towards marketing, production, auditing or purchasing each year. Women represent 27% of Saint-Gobain’s managers working in research. This is a key asset in enhancing the Group’s diversity.

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