Open innovation

Saint-Gobain’s outward-looking strategy, notably as concerns innovation, has led it to develop and diversify its partnerships. To keep up with eco-system complexity and ever-faster technological change, the Group needs to work more with external partners to extend its expertise.

OPENING UP TO GREATER INNOVATION 

NOVA, ENABLING BORDERLESS INNOVATION    

Nova

Saint-Gobain plays an active role within the global start-up ecosystem through NOVA, its corporate venture arm created in 2006. NOVA’s objective is to enable disruptive innovation that benefit all stakeholders by identifying opportunities for win-win long-term partnerships and turning these into reality, as well as to develop new ideas and business models, creating shared value with start-ups.

Deploying various collaboration patterns

NOVA works with Saint-Gobain’s teams to set up strategic co-development partnerships, distribution, marketing or licensing agreements with start-ups. Since the end of 2016, NOVA has extended its field of expertise by acquiring equity stakes in start-ups. The total value of NOVA’s investments in start-ups represents around $100 million (at fair market value) as of the end of 2021.

With 1,500 opportunities screened and nearly 50 deals signed, 2021 was a record year for NOVA.

Examples of partnerships signed and investments made in 2021:

Fibrecoat

Fibrecoat (Germany), developing new fiber-based products for construction and industrial applications;

indeco

InDeco (China), deploying an efficient office renovation service via digital design

Hyperframe

Hyperframe (United States), developing a metal framing system for commercial construction

juno

JuuNoo (Belgium), a start-up developing reusable steel-frame wall systems

 

livspace

LivSpace (India), specializing in the optimization of home interior

livspace
trincollect

Tri’n’Collect (France), offering recycling services for construction waste, complementing NOVA’s previous investment in EcoDrop.

Nuqlea (Argentina), developing a ‘superplatform’ connecting the construction value chain from upstream developers and architects through suppliers, distributors, installers and end inhabitants

Scaling up: a growing momentum

NOVA covers a wide array of themes aligned with Saint-Gobain’sstrategy – be the worldwide leader in light and sustainable construction – with a particular focus on sustainability and digitalization:

  • https://www.nova-saint-gobain.com/sites/default/files/Productivite%20%26%20construction_0.png  Construction productivity
     
  • https://www.nova-saint-gobain.com/sites/default/files/performance%20des%20batiments.png   Building performance
     
  • https://www.nova-saint-gobain.com/sites/default/files/Transition%20energetique_0.png   Energy transition
     
  • https://www.nova-saint-gobain.com/sites/default/files/intermediation%20et%20experience%20client_2.png   Intermediation and customer experience
     
  • https://www.nova-saint-gobain.com/sites/default/files/connectivite%20digitale_0.png  Digital connectivity
     
  • https://www.nova-saint-gobain.com/sites/default/files/Plug_0.png  Electrification of transportation
     
  • https://www.nova-saint-gobain.com/sites/default/files/economie%20circulaire.png  Circular economy
     

Sourcing deals via multiple contact points

A relationship with a start-up can start in many different ways: via venture capital investors, incubators, accelerators, and through NOVA’s involvement in key events (ranging from Climatetech Summit in the United States to the Africarena startup challenge in South Africa and the CSRtech Summit in China). With the new decentralized local organization brought by Saint-Gobain’s “Transform and Grow” strategic plan and the shift in the company’s corporate culture, local internal stakeholders play an increasingly significant role in the sourcing of deals: more often than not, the NOVA team is nowadays introduced to start-ups by local business teams, as was the case in India with LivSpace.

Investing via dedicated funds

NOVA can invest through specific thematic investment funds: Navitas Capital for construction and Phoenix Venture Partners (PVP) for material sciences, both in the United States, and Environmental Technologies Fund (ETF) in Europe, focused on sustainability. In 2021, NOVA also invested in a new venture fund, Richland Capital, in China, with a focus on high performance solutions.

Partnering with incubators

Saint-Gobain, through NOVA, is also a partner of several incubators, including:

  • Greentown Labs in the United States, specializing in green technologies, which opened a second site in 2021
  • Impulse Labs in France, which specializes in construction businesses
  • Cubo in Brazil, a specialist in digitization
  • RWTH Aachen University in Germany, a prestigious engineering school that integrates an excellent start-up incubator called RWTH Innovation
  • Tus-Holdings in China, a company that develops, builds, and manages TusPark, the largest university science park in the world
  • The Impact Hub Innovation Center in Shanghai, China

Investing in innovation: a token of Saint-Gobain’s trust in a more open world

Saint-Gobain’s philosophy for collaborating with start-ups is based on three values: an approach that benefits all stakeholders, a passion for learning and researching new ideas, and an open and flexible approach to relationships.  NOVA therefore acts as a portal to the outside world, helping internal teams to keep up with industry’s latest innovation trends.

The Group’s active involvement in the start-up ecosystem, in fast-paced, rapidly changing environments is fully in line with Grow & Impact’s priorities, demonstrating the Group’s ambition to drive customer-centric innovation, grow its solutions and create maximum impact for customers. NOVA’s contribution reinforces Saint-Gobain’s robust innovation platform and supports the Group’s positioning as the leader in light and sustainable construction.

A win-win relation

Working closely with Saint-Gobain provide start-ups an access to Saint-Gobain’s internal resources and support to form long-term partnerships. Rooted in trust, expertise, support and flexibility, Saint-Gobain, via NOVA assists entrepreneurs whose areas of focus align with the Group’s expertise in order to help them succeed, by contributing notably to accelerate their commercial development or expand in new geographies.


More information:

NOVA Internet Website

Follow NOVA on Twitter

SUN, A PARTNER NETWORK OF INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITIES

The international Saint-Gobain University Network (SUN) gives the Group access to the academic world’s latest scientific advances and high level expertise. In addition, this cooperation approach expands the pool of researchers with thesis placements and post-docs, making it easier to hire managers with an excellent level of training in strategic countries. 

The Group has long-term partnerships with, for instance:

  • The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France,
  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts, and Case Western Reserve University in the United States,
  • The Indian Institute of Technology Madras in India, 
  • The RWTH Aachen University and the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany,
  • Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia, 
  • The National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Japan. 

 

Partnership with CNRS in France and NIMS in Japan

Saint-Gobain, the CNRS (French National Scientific Research Center) and the NIMS (National Institute for Materials Science) have just opened the Laboratory for Innovative Key Materials and Structures (LINK) in the presence of the French Ambassador to Japan, Thierry Dana. The aim of this international research center is to develop new materials that could have applications in several of Saint-Gobain’s industrial activities, in particular ceramics, grains and powders, crystals, glazing and abrasives. Linked to both Saint-Gobain and the CNRS, the center is housed at the NIMS in Tsukuba in Japan, one of the world’s leading materials research laboratories. This is the first time Saint-Gobain and the CNRS have opened a joint research center abroad.