Innovate … Then What?
Innovate … Then What?

Innovation is critical to business success – but creating something unique is only half the challenge. Putting it successfully into the marketplace and making it accessible to customers can be an epic journey in itself as CLP’s digital experts found.

Innovation is vital for a business to establish a competitive advantage. Putting it to work is another challenge in itself, however, and success often comes only after a protracted period of trial and error.


Take CLP’s digital solutions platform Smart Energy Connect (SEC) as an example. Its ability to rebound from the setbacks it encountered in offering an indoor air quality solution provides a useful lesson in the value of persistence.

Health and wellbeing
As consumers become more health-conscious, innovation projects have emerged with a focus on health and wellbeing.

Health and wellbeing are increasingly important to people today, with a raft of innovations aimed at health-conscious customers. This is also an area of interest for SEC, which offers a suite of energy innovations for businesses to fulfil their digital demands, enhance their operational efficiency, and reduce their carbon footprints. 


From discussions with customers in schools and offices stretching back two years, the SEC team realised there was a common concern over indoor air quality. The team responded by coming up with the idea of finding an Internet of Things (IoT)-connected air quality sensor which could be integrated into its energy solutions app. The sensor would then help customers monitor and control their power use in one place. 


To gauge customers’ needs, the team interviewed potential buyers to see what functions they would like to have, before deciding on an air quality sensor to integrate into the energy solutions app.


However, when the team started to pitch its solution to more than 20 potential clients, most of them said they found the offer incomplete. The customers wanted the device to not only monitor air quality but also purify the air when pollutants were detected.

Back to the drawing board

The market feedback made the team rethink its approach and realise it had made a common mistake in the innovation process – failing to address the root of a problem. It had answered the question of how to measure air quality, but not the question of how to improve it.

The team went back to the drawing board and started to source a suitable air purifier to integrate with the sensor. It found most purifiers on the market were already equipped with built-in sensors. For some innovators, this would be the time to give up. For the SEC team, though, it was too soon to admit defeat.

Trial and error is an important part of the innovation process.

The team carefully thought about the question: If there were already purifiers with sensors, why weren’t they good enough for customers? It drilled down to the current market gaps and found potential for its IoT sensor to replace the standard air quality sensors built into air purifiers. 

The IoT indoor air quality sensor, called Omni, tracks indoor air quality and provides customised advice.

The team realised the key issue with the ordinary indoor air quality sensors was that they worked behind the scenes and lacked clear communication with users, for example, on the level of air quality and the action that should be taken.

The IoT air quality sensor the team found, called Omni, addresses this by tracking air quality and providing customised advice. With these capabilities, it can help transform a purifier into a smart appliance which can measure indoor air quality and automatically adjust the fan speed based on conditions. Customers can also manage the indoor air quality based on the information available by controlling the device through an SEC-designed mobile app. This product is now receiving increasing interest from schools.

The SEC team’s journey demonstrated a number of factors in putting innovation to work. They include four key lessons:


1. Stay focused on your goals 


Only a well-designed innovative solution can earn long-term success. Beware of the temptation of a quick fix. Provide strategic insights and guide your team to focus on what customers really want in order to address market gaps. Never innovate without a specific target or need. Innovation is not a process of reinventing the wheel but rather satisfying customers’ known or hidden needs.


2. Know your market

Remember you are not the only one pushing ahead with business innovations. Always watch out for market trends to see what your potential competitors are offering. An in-depth analysis could help you identify the white space in the market and assess the resources needed for a new project. 


3. Learn from failure

Innovation is never easy. Overcome fear of failure. The way to progress is to keep learning from your own experience or other people’s experiences. Failure could just be a stepping stone to innovation success.


4. Prioritise the core need 

Make sure you find the real problem you’re trying to solve rather than just managing the symptoms people may be experiencing.

Factors that make innovation work