With population growth, urbanization and climate change transforming the ways the world produces and consumes energy, the Innovation Intent team works to create products that meet new needs.
The team seeks to expand technology out of Grundfos’ comfort zone by working with other organizations, forming alliances, making acquisitions outside of pumps and increasing research with universities and laboratories. Greg Towsley and his team focus specifically on developing solutions for the zero-impact commercial buildings market. Towsley, director of innovation platform, discusses how he and his team are doing things differently.
Q. What makes the Innovation Intent platform different from other areas of Grundfos?
Carsten Bjerg has given us a vision of where he sees Grundfos being in 2025. With that comes growth and solutions in areas other than where our core business and core competencies have been for many years. Today our solution to the market is a pump and maybe a motor. In the future we’re going to be providing a solution where a pump or a motor may not even be included. That is break-through, or radical, innovation.
Q. Can you explain what radical innovation is and how it relates to the platform?
One of Carsten’s objectives for Innovation Intent was for 50 percent of the revenue that we earn in 2025 to come from technology not developed in 2008. That’s one way to look at “radical” – something that’s new to the market. For Grundfos, “radical” can also be something beyond pumps or it can be a new business model. It can mean using different channels and different partnerships than we have in the past.
Q. What are the challenges that come with radical versus incremental innovation?
One of the challenges is the resources to develop and find the solutions. Because of resource constraints, we have to find external collaboration partnerships to help us develop and test our ideas. Another challenge is the way Grundfos has thought about innovation and solution development in the past. We’ve always been so pump-focused. Now we have to think differently. We have to get away from a pump-centric mindset.
Q. If Grundfos is so good at pumps, why should we look for solutions that have nothing to do with our core competency?
We are working to provide solutions – not just products. It’s all about approaching the market and saying, “We want to make this building more energy efficient. How can Grundfos be involved in doing that?” When I first came onto this platform, I had the bad habit that all Grundfos guys do of immediately asking about the pump. It wasn’t until I learned about radical innovation that I had to start approaching problems differently.
Q. What can you gain from having zero-impact commercial buildings platform in the U.S. and not in Denmark?
The original idea was to focus on the U.S. because it’s such a large commercial buildings market. Eventually we found that many of the problems and issues we have in the U.S. are the same throughout the world. Our hope is to continually grow and increase platform team members around the world as well as to develop internal scouts and collaboration partners that can give us more ideas and help us network throughout the world. There are some places throughout the world that do a lot with green buildings – Australia, Korea, Singapore, Germany – we see ourselves eventually reaching out to Grundfos employees in those regions to educate them on how we’re looking for new solutions and also opening up those markets to start working with us.
Q. What specific solutions is your platform focused on?
Our primary focus has been in areas of energy recovery, water reuse and systems integration, as well as heating and cooling.
Q. Why is it so important to think outside the box when it comes to Innovation Intent?
To really succeed in this, we have to do things differently. We started asking new questions like “How can we integrate alternative energy into our solutions?” and “How can our solutions communicate better with the building or with other pieces of equipment?” We started opening up to people outside of our company, building alliances with contractors or other manufacturers, looking at acquisitions outside of pumps and thinking about new sources of research. We want to stretch what Grundfos is actually capable of.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.