Shaping the Future of Innovation

04 Nov 2014 in The Network, Corporate Partners by Barbara Schmitt

Shaping the Future of Innovation

UNITECH facilitates interaction between students and companies

In 2013, Johnson Controls Automotive Seating joined the UNITECH program as a Corporate Partner, and participated in UNITECH’s 2013 General Assembly in Milan, Italy. Anna Forshufvud, who attended the event as a student from Sweden, saw the opportunity to work with radical innovation in Johnson Controls’ Technology & Advanced Development (T&AD) Group after speaking with Dieter Kerkhoff, T&AD Tech Center Lead in Europe. “I met with Dieter over coffee and became very interested in working with the challenges he described.”

Eight months later, as the first foreign intern to work with the T&AD team in Burscheid, Germany, Anna was working in the area of Technology Intelligence. She was evaluating research tools, making scouting requests and contacting strategically chosen companies for potential collaboration. “I found my internship to be interesting and very relevant to my studies. In fact, I liked the work so much that, in my spare time, I investigated potential topics for my Master’s thesis.”

Perfect timing

At the end of her internship, Anna suggested a few topics that could benefit Johnson Controls for her upcoming Master’s thesis – a joint project with one of her classmates. “We were looking for a radical innovation project within Johnson Controls, because our Master’s program is educating us to drive radical innovation in bigger organizations,” she says.

Anna is now doing her Master’s thesis with Johnson Controls – a one-year project called Next-Generation Technology Intelligence (Next TI), designed to support the improvement of the company’s Open Innovation activities. “I’m now the driver of a cross-functional working group that aims to develop new processes for Supplier Innovation,” she says. As this project is of high relevance for the company, Anna’s steering committee includes two Johnson Controls vice presidents. “The support from upper management is really important to me, since we are working on topics that involve organizational change.”

Anna’s conclusion is that without UNITECH as a door opener, and without great motivating colleagues, she would never have faced the challenge of kicking off and leading the Next TI project. “My advice to new UNITECH students is to take the opportunity to do more than one internship, and get to know as many cultures as possible.”

Written by Barbara Schmitt
Communications expert for the Technology & Advanced Development Group
Johnson Controls

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