By organising a competition for new ideas on the subject “100% cellulose fibres – re-thought” viscose fibre manufacturer Kelheim Fibres has broken new ground in innovation management. The competition was part of the start-up contest “Plan B – Biomass. Business. Bavaria“ organised by Bio-Campus Straubing under the patronage of the Bavarian State Secretary for Economic Affairs Franz Josef Pschierer.
“In R&D we don’t just rely on receiving ideas for new products or new applications in our dreams, but we proceed in a focussed and methodical way”, says Walter Roggenstein, R&D Manager at Kelheim Fibres. “For us, this competition in cooperation with Biocampus Straubing was an attempt to boost our innovation process and to open it to beyond the boundaries of our company.”
Matthew North, Commercial Director at Kelheim Fibres, adds: “The competition was not only about specific ideas – we have seen completely new conceptual approaches and we have gained contacts in industry sectors and application areas formerly unknown to us. And by opening the process to outsiders we could avoid the risk of operational blindness.”
Kelheim was extremely pleased with the results of this experiment, partiularly with the broad spectrum of ideas: More than 20 different proposals – ranging from very simple, clearly defined application ideas to visionary future products – were submitted. Equally varied were the people behind these ideas, from school pupils to experienced tradespeople to academics.
The winner of the competition, Dr. Jürgen Pettrak from “Straubinger Entwässerung und Reinigung” (local wastewater authorities), was rewarded with prize of 2.500 Euro. His idea was the use of filters made of functionalised viscose fibres as a fourth clarification stage in wastewater treatment plants, to filter out the increasing amount of endocrine substances found in wastewater. These endocrine substances find their way into into the water due to the growing use of drugs in human medicine as well as in large-scale farming and, if not filtered out, they may finally affect our genetic material. But Kelheim Fibres was also excited by the other proposals, which concern the use of viscose fibres in environmentally sound yet at the same time tailor-made wound care, in semi-finished products with printed electrical circuits, eco-friendly felt pens, panels of pressed straw for construction applications and an idea for a regional marketing for regionally produced fibre products. These ideas were awarded further prizes.
„We will not put these great suggestions away in a drawer”, promises Walter Roggentein. “I am convinced that some of these ideas will lead to projects and finally to new products. For us, the success of this competition will lead to a further opening-up of our innovation process – on the inside as well as on the outside.”