Areva T&D’s Secret to Innovation


Energy.  Some people predict that our next wars will be fought over who has possession of energy and its distribution.  The planet’s population and energy appetite is growing, but our resources are not.  What to do? 

Ramping up to next week’s National Innovation Directors Meetings, I wanted to see if I could learn the secret of innovation as it pertains to the Energy Industry.  We’re all told we need innovation to build a sustainable future, and this couldn’t be truer for energy. 

DSC_0074 copie_JLHere’s a little interview with Areva T&D’s (Transmission and Distribution) Eco Design & Innovation Director, Jean-Luc Bessède, also a speaker at the event. 

I also threw in a question about the future of eco design

Note that Areva T&D’s mission is to offer “reliable, efficient and environmentally-friendly solutions to improve network stability and make electricity available everywhere.”

1. Your title is Innovation & Eco Design Director. Where do you separate the two? Isn’t Eco Design where we must focus all of our innovation today?

JLB:  Of course, we must focus all of our innovation today towards eco-friendly solutions.  This is particularly the case in our energy sector, where the increase of renewables, the need for energy efficiency and the reduction of the CO2 emissions will be major drivers in the years to come.

At Areva T&D, our eco-design program formally began more than 10 years ago.  However, eco design is still a new area for engineering, and our program aims at giving tools and methodology to our design teams to enhance the capability of the designer to create innovative eco-friendly solutions that would also fit with customer expectations.

In our search for Green solutions, we also have to deal with cost reductions, improvement of performance, better reliability, tighter development planning or more stringent qualification programs. And our global innovation strategy and programs stand for these.

2. What are the most innovative eco design projects that you’re working on right now?

JLB:  First of all, we are developing a Green Services offer.  We are also developing innovative electrical network management tools that will allow us to improve the global energy efficiency and power quality deliveries to the end-users.  Additionally we are developing eco-friendly solutions for power transformers or swithchgear.
3. What’s your secret for innovation, and how do you ensure you’re always pushing the limits further?

JLB:  Unfortunately, there is no secret . . . and innovation is mostly a question of perspective.  It could be considered as a process, as the result of a development strategy, as a commercial success, a technological breakthrough, a sociological change, etc. 

However, three parameters appear to be essential in order to always be in the position to push the limits further :

  • Strong expertise in our core business but also regarding the business of our customers;
  • Numerous and deep relationships with external partners (universities, regulators, other companies…), including term collaboration agreements ; and
  • Heavy investments in R&D.

4. Do you use 3D software and collaborative research platforms to invent your products? If so, how does this impact your innovation cycle? If not, why?

JLB:  3D software and collaborative tools are already used and some developments and deployment are running throughout the company. We take benefit from 3D software, to improve the reliability of our equipment and reduce development time through improved electrical and mechanical dimensioning.

Collaborative platforms are necessary for us, due to the spread of our R&D community in many countries and continents.

5. What do you think is the future of eco design?

JLB:  Eco-design is already a reality and applied in the everyday engineering job, in many industries.  But good and efficient tools which could simplify and accelerate the job are and will be more and more necessary.  This is, for sure, an area where further developments will appear.

Merci beaucoup Jean-Luc! 

Any questions you’d like me to ask Jean-Luc at next week’s National Innovation Directors Meetings ?