Exploring External Opportunities Through Open Innovation

5 questions with Alex Kruglov, VP Global Technology at the Valspar Corporation


Ahead of his presentation at the Open Innovation Summit in Boston this September 28-29th, we spoke to Alex Kruglov, VP Global Technology at Valspar Corporation.

Dr. Alex Kruglov is Global Technology Vice President for Valspar’s Packaging Division. He joined Valspar in 2013 and is responsible for global R&D, including innovation, new product development, quality, and materials management. Prior to Valspar, Kruglov served as Global R&D Director at W.R.Grace & Co. ’s Construction Products Division where he managed global development for concrete and cement additives, specialty waterproofing, and fire protection materials. Kruglov started his industrial career and has held various leadership positions within LEXAN®, ULTEM® and NORYL® Businesses of General Electric Plastics, now SABIC Innovative Plastics.

What are the main advantages of open innovation?

I always say if you have a problem to solve, and even though it is within your expertise domain, chances are the solution already exists and chances are it is outside of your department. With today’s rapid access to ideas, technologies, data, and human talent anywhere in the world, Connect-and-Develop in many cases is becoming more competitive than 'research and develop'.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that companies face in terms of open innovation implementation?

Large companies are internally focused and programmed to develop within, plus, there are too many ‘checks and balances’ to scrutinize the risks of going outside. Small companies are much more open to harvesting and exploiting external collaborations, but often they have to be opportunistic and focus on commercial projects at hand.

How does open innovation affect R&D labs and departments?

It’s a major cultural change, particularly for traditional and large companies. For scientists, investing in a network with their outside peers, inviting academic experts and industry consultants, leading ideation sessions with suppliers or customers, attending external forums - is not always viewed as part of the job. On top of this, new competencies are needed to manage open innovation projects – devising and negotiating term sheets, joint development agreements, protection of IP, technology, and commercial exclusivity – and these are the skills that technologists have to acquire as they get engaged in open innovation projects, not in school.

On the fun side of things, getting outside of your own lab and interacting with professors, suppliers, customers, attending trade shows and technical conferences is very invigorating and energizing for technical folks. Enthusiastic and empowered people are more productive and more creative.

How big are the competitive risks of sharing too much with external organizations/individuals?

Teaching too much has risks, of course, but if you are comfortable with each other’s objectives (and backed by appropriate agreements), an open-book, one-innovation lab approach always wins in developing better solutions and speed to the market

What can the audience expect from your upcoming presentation at the Open Innovation Summit?

As with your personal life, in industrial partnerships, you are no longer in full control! But if you are comfortable with it, the benefits can outweigh the 'side effects.'

You can hear more from Alex and other industry leaders at the Open Innovation Summit, taking place in Boston this September 28-29th. 


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