What makes you the ideal driver of innovation?
My family knows me as a passionate endurance athlete who fervently loves to set himself new goals. There are certainly parallels to my job as the chief innovation officer. We want to become the innovation leader in the chemical industry. To this end, we will bring together all of Evonik’s innovative capabilities while maintaining our proximity to the customers and to our business. Our driving force here is the same one that we all share: “Leading beyond chemistry to improve life, today and tomorrow.” It’s our motto and our mission.
You are counting on consolidating the expertise in the area of research and development. How important are innovations for Evonik?
The spirit of innovation is a key element of Evonik’s self-image. Today we’re already investing more than three percent of our sales in research and development. For some years now, we’ve been focusing our innovation activities on six growth fields in attractive markets that grow at above-average rates. And through this focus we want to provide answers to major social and environmental questions. By combining our capabilities, we are dovetailing our scientific expertise with our market and customer proximity so that we can create new applications and solutions more quickly.
Why is customer proximity so important to you?
The ability to listen is one of the most important qualities at work and it’s often underestimated. In sales as well as in research and development, we have to recognize people’s needs, identify unresolved issues, and create benefits. A research accomplishment is especially good when it benefits the customer and the resulting product is successful on the market. I’m convinced that we can create innovations whenever we can put ourselves into the customer’s shoes. Or, better yet, if we can anticipate the needs that a customer isn’t even aware of yet.
As CIO, you are often confronted by complex global challenges. What experiences help you deal with such challenges?
From 2009 to 2012, I was head of Inorganic Materials Asia in Shanghai. It was a wonderful time that I wouldn’t want to have missed. I will always be very much attached to China and I still feel like I’m “coming home” whenever I land in Shanghai. What did I learn in China? Basically, I learned to look for solutions rather than for problems that make solutions impossible! The time you spend in a different culture greatly helps you to set the right priorities and tell what is truly important. Because my work is very demanding, health and fitness play a key role in my daily life. Moreover, I try to spend as much time as possible with my family.