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4 Questions to Dr. Henning Trill

Dr. Henning Trill is Vice President of Innovation Strategy at Bayer. In this role, he is responsible for Bayer’s Innovation Agenda, a top-down and bottom-up approach to drive innovation. Besides he is a mentor for entrepreneurs at Unreasonable Group.

In your current role as Vice President of Innovation Strategy at Bayer, you are creating innovation ecosystems in nutrition and health. Where does your passion for innovation topics come from?

I always had a passion to find new ways to solve relevant problems by understanding complex systems. Thus after graduating from high school I studied physics and chemistry, which I enjoyed a lot. However, Innovation is really not only about new stuff but about creating value for other people. There is a global need to increase the health of humanity, not only in emerging countries, but also right here, and not only by the application of drugs but also by supporting and enabling a healthy lifestyle. This is why I think there is tremendous potential in health & nutrition ecosystems to solve one of humanity’s most pressing problems.

With his quote “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”, Peter Drucker described the importance of the human factor in any company. Which steps took Bayer’s Corporate Innovation Team during the COVID-19 pandemic to foster the organizational culture and to make a collaborative environment happen?

When the pandemic hit, we were already three years into the transformation and had laid the ground for a very fast adaptation to what was necessary. An Innovation Strategy which involves the whole organization can only be successful if the culture does enable innovation on that level. Culture is actually the behaviors that are valued and lived inside an organization. Hence, focusing on innovation promoting behaviors such as customer focus, experimentation, collaboration and trust and leveraging our network of more than 1000 Innovation Coaches to role model these behaviors across the organization allowed us to shift the culture from an efficiency focus towards the value created for the customer. Thus when our teams creating new business models could not meet anymore, we created virtual spaces where even the creative work could almost seamlessly continue. Actually, since virtual participation became a standard, our teams are now even more agile, diverse and global compared to 2019. 

Which approaches does Bayer take to incubate new ideas from within? And most importantly: Which are the largest hurdles and success factors for a corporation such as Bayer with regards to intrapreneurship?

Bayer has several vehicles to explore new opportunities. #G4A and LEAPS focus on startups while our open Innovation teams focus on collaboration with universities (check out innovate.bayer.com). Internally we focus on identifying our customer’s challenges and explore solutions to help them thrive in those spaces. We achieve this through entrepreneurship programs like the CATALYST, which so far allowed more than 500  Bayer employees to work three to nine month in a startup-like fashion (following a lean startup approach). If we find solutions that are highly accepted by our customers, we continue to invest, and in many cases also team up with a startup as a strategic partner to speed up the exploration in the respective area. It’s a great way for our talents to experience true entrepreneurship and full empowerment.

How do you ensure in a large corporation that different innovation and investment arms such as the intrapreneurship initiative, the corporate VC arm “LEAPS” and the accelerator “#G4A” are synchronized and work together efficiently?

Great question! Of course, this is a challenge in a large corporation with more than 100.000 employees. We took three strategic measures to assure this as best as possible.

  1. Every innovation program engages a different niche inside the innovation ecosystem, while the content is aligned with senior leaders through the business strategy of each division
  2. There is a frequent exchange between representatives from all programs  across the divisions to share learnings, prevent re-inventing the wheel, and leverage synergies
  3. Finally, transparency, created by our internal platform WeInnovate allows all employees to see what is going and participate in the activities
About Bayer’s Innovation purpose

With „Science for a better life“ we at Bayer aim to achieve our purpose: Hunger for none, health for all. Innovation is key here since the same way of thinking that created today’s problems will not solve them. Thus Bayer invests more than EUR 4.8 bn in Innovation each year.

About Henning Trill

With a passion for exploration, I was inspired by David Livingstone and alike who explored “white spaces” hundreds of years ago e.g. in Africa. Back in the 1990’s I tried to follow their steps and climbed three of Africa’s highest mountain ranges – Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenia and the Ruwenzori mountains. Unfortunately, these glacial peaks are also the areas where climate change is most visible and I hope we as humans manage to preserve those fantastic ecosystems.

Author

Dr. Sebastian Voigt

Dr. Sebastian Voigt is Partner at hy and Managing Director of hy’s tech and software unit hy Technologies, which is developing the Ecosystem Manager. He studied Business Administration and Computer Science and completed his PhD at the TU Darmstadt on monetization strategies for digital marketplaces. Sebastian has been developing profitable digital business models for more than 15 years. He worked as Director for Simon-Kucher & Partners, an international consultancy, and led the strategic project teams as well as the pricing unit at Axel Springer. He also held operative leadership positions at Bertelsmann and ProSiebenSat1.