What Does Corporate Innovation Strategy Mean To Your Company?

Speaker Snapshot: Christoph Huels, Chief Innovation Officer at Merck


Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London this October 19-20, we spoke to Christoph Huels, Chief Innovation Officer at Merck.

In his role as a Chief Innovation Officer of the newly built Corporate Innovation Unit, Christoph will be defining the Merck Group innovation strategy and developing options for implementation to further drive Merck’s reputation as a leading innovative science and technology company. He brings more than 20 years of industrial experience dedicated to innovation, ranging from a CEO of a biotech company (Protagen) to leadership roles in R&D, business development, marketing, sales, strategy development and implementation, operational excellence, and other departments at Hoechst, Novartis, and Merck. Christoph did his Ph.D. in immunology at the Johannes-Gutenberg-University, Mainz, and a coaching education at the Coaches Training Institute.

How did you get started in your career?

I started my industrial career as a Post-Doc in pre-clinical research, in pharmaceutical R&D, at Hoechst AG. It was very exciting to apply my background from immunology to the design and implementation of in vitro and in vivo screening tools for new anti-rheumatic drugs.

What are the main components of a successful innovation strategy?

Innovation is about creating the right environment for the right people to drive projects forward, according to customer needs, and engage in innovative solutions, creating a clear benefit. It is also important to understand how to capture the value of that innovation. In a larger company, an innovation strategy should also elaborate on how to decide how many resources should be spent on routine innovation versus more risky and long-term innovation in new technologies, and/or business models (radical, disruptive or even architectural innovation).

Is open innovation worth the risk?

Open innovation is a great tool to crowdsource solutions for innovation. It is absolutely worth to try, especially in areas where hard nuts of innovation are to be cracked, or you may not have so much experience as a corporation.

How important is it to collaborate with the startup community? What are your thoughts on internal and external incubator programs?

Ideally, an innovation strategy entails all elements of internal and external sourcing and also leverages elements like corporate venture capital as well as incubation and acceleration. I would risk the statement that there is nearly no innovation run in any setting, be it small or big companies, that is not having collaborations, licensing of assets, or access to external technology in the road map.

What can delegates expect from your presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit?

In my career, I worked in a broad diversity of corporate cultures and industries. Ranging from biotech startup to generics, specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals at Hoechst, Novartis, and Merck. So the audience can expect a diversity of insights and views. In addition, in my current position, I am responsible for defining the corporate innovation strategy for Merck, and will give insights of what that means in a company with multi-billion business in 3 business sectors, and still be family owned.

You can hear more from Christoph and other industry leaders at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit, taking place in London this October 19-20.

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