Royal IHC – The Technology Innovator
Once a month we spotlight one of our mentors at PortXL, who will share an industry challenge.
John Oosthoek has been with Royal IHC since 2012, currently responsible for Digital Business Development & Ecosystem Development in the department IHC Digital Business.
Vienna Lomonov has been with Royal IHC since early 2018, in the role of Manager in the Marketing Deparment – her role is to look for new business opportunities and she is a firm believer of the power of ecosystems and likes to work with start-ups in particular.
Together, they are spearheading the innovation revolution within Royal IHC. In this interview, they shed light on the challenge of the transformation from shipbuilding to a service-based business, as well as their experiences with the PortXL program in the first year of being a corporate partner.
Royal IHC is traditionally seen as a shipbuilding company, a very asset- and capital-intensive industry with a considerable conservative reputation. We are witnessing a change, driven from the top and bottom both – IHC is moving towards being more of a service provider. Apart from the usual high-end products we deliver, we also want to increase our services towards our customers and the digital revolution we are living in is a key aspect of that transformation.
We are indirectly addressing a number of pain points by applying an outside-in focus. We look at the whole value chain and our role within that. Service orientation is one thing, but it requires different thinking in the entire industry. Our focus is on opening up, for instance by sharing information internally and externally. We are moving towards a more cooperative culture in order to stay on top of our game.
Our services department is being empowered with new hires that bring additional skillsets and views from either our own customer base or other maritime companies. We look for more data-driven decisions. For example, being able to analyse the data that our assets generate, enables us to provide consultancy services to our customers. At the same time, we have a digital innovation process that enables us to run certain initiatives at a faster pace than normal R&D or innovation projects within the company. There is incremental budgeting in place to stimulate those activities and it is our role to find the right start-ups or customers to co-create with – this is why we like to work with PortXL.
Beyond the dyke
Start-ups tend to use technologies quicker and faster than corporates, so you get a feeling of what is happening around the world, or “beyond the dyke” – as we like to call it – we use these start-ups as a valued source of inspiration and at the same time to show our internal stakeholders how fast innovation can go. Start-ups assist the innovative people within IHC to build a case for change, as their independent thinking can challenge us.
The important thing about the co-operation with start-ups and scale-ups is that their propositions fit the value that IHC wants to add to our customers. However, there is also a personal connection element, building trust and goodwill is very important to involve stakeholders early on. Currently, there is almost no internal hesitation or reluctance to work together with a start-up, something that we have accomplished through PortXL. The validation that the PortXL name association brings is not to be understated, there is a reason why these companies have been selected to be part of the program by the partners and that turned many heads internally.
The PortXL Journey so far
IHC became a corporate partner officially in September 2018, therefore this is the first program they are currently in the midst of experiencing.
The role of PortXL for IHC has really been as a sort of market validation of the start-ups and scale-ups in the program, as well as to gain access to this wide dataset where you can scout all kinds of technologies. An ecosystem like PortXL helps us greatly because our customers are part of it, and it is great to meet like-minded people that share our passion for innovation.
Vienna is brimming with enthusiasm about the program, she gets really inspired by the young entrepreneurial driven people that work in those start-ups, “I am a bit jealous of the courage of these smart people that strive to build a business by themselves.” – They push for change, which is a net positive.
John’s view is that IHC is learning a lot from PortXL and has realized that if you want to innovate as a corporate, it is very easy to work together with a start-up to get that pace and speed of development that you are lacking now – an ideal symbiotic relationship. It’s a good program, a good fit with the participants and the industry – there is a clear difference with other accelerators and incubators, with a distinct added value.
The vision is that ideally the start-ups and scale-ups add to our proposition and help us become more a service partner and a more flexible organization – we’ve always had the slogan “The Technology Innovator” and we are known for our product innovation, but our commercial or business model innovation could use some help.
As part of the program, each partner can host a roadshow, where the start-ups and scale-ups pitch to and interact with the employees of the partner company. The IHC roadshow took place on the 15th of May 2019, and saw 80+ IHC employees participate, as well as featuring special guests from fellow PortXL corporate partners Van Oord & Boskalis.
We are ecstatic with how well the roadshow went, the attendance rate was higher than our expectations and we achieved our goals of involving senior management and having them interact with the start-ups and scale-ups, but also with Young IHC, as we sought to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.
Having some of our major customers [Van Oord & Boskalis] share their experiences with innovation and R&D was very insightful – often we at IHC have this pre-conception of customer behaviour that they are inaccessible because of their size, but when you talk to representatives from those companies they are delighted to share their thoughts. This experience was greatly beneficial for us all and hopefully leads to a faster pace within IHC – we often delay processes too much with formalities – but we hope to get some contracts or letters of intent signed during Shakedown!
An unexpected development of the program is the potential growth of our own people within IHC. The thought sprung to mind that exposing them to an accelerator program where you are bombarded with having to learn different skills and mindset could be a major factor in developing the talent within IHC and within other corporate partner organisations. It is such a fun, inspirational ecosystem to be a part of, some say it’s like doing a mini MBA because of all the things you learn when working with start-ups. Vienna’s past experiences in working at Startupbootcamp enhance this belief and could drive the enthusiasm for PortXL’s role in talent development into something concrete in the future – food for thought!