In the Innovation Ranking for 2018, published by the European Commission, Poland unfortunately came in a distant fourth from last place. Despite progress in this area over recent years, even the European Union as a whole still failed to reach the level of the United States, Canada or Japan, and the distance between China and the EU is also quickly diminishing. The data provided by the EC indicate that EU companies spend less on innovation than their competitors, with an average spending of 1.3% of GDP for Europe, 1.6% in China, 2% in the USA and 2.6% in Japan.
What promotes the development of innovation is, however, not only limited to money. Investments should also entail cooperation between the government and the scientific and business community, as well as the development of an increasingly stronger workforce of experts with ‘digital competencies’. Innovation enables companies to not only increase their revenues or maintain a competitive position in the market, but often to automate parts of their work as well. Considering the growing gap in Poland’s labour market, all these motivations are equally strong for our businesses.
Instead of looking for innovation outside the organisation, companies more and more often see potential in their own employees. And rightly so, as this may be an additional tool in the path of employee development and increasing employee loyalty. Types of employee innovation systems can be divided by their degree of advancement, as well as the level of development of innovation culture within the business. They may include competitions and platforms, such as crowdsourcing competitions and platforms, often based on gamification principles. Internal accelerators, which apart from gathering ideas also include their further development, are also popular. The most mature form is an internal entrepreneurship system. The way it operates resembles internal startups, and authors of ideas are kept engaged to the very end, i.e. until the innovation is implemented and part of the business is run on the basis of its results.
PwC has been running the Innovation@Poland programme for many years, and its aim is to select the most creative ideas of our employees that respond to the real needs of our customers. We receive more and more submissions every year, so now we do not have to encourage anyone. We select around a dozen interesting solutions and include part of them in our service and product range after the acceleration phase.
PwC employees who submit their ideas to the programme can rely on the support of mentors and cooperate with them to jointly develop the final details of the project, including those related to its operation and price or stages of implementation at the customer’s. The best are awarded an extra financial bonus, related with the potential profits, up to even PLN 2.5 million.
When you mention PwC Poland at the other companies from our network, you find that the innovation incubator is exactly what springs to their minds first. We are twice winners of the annual PwC Global Innovation Challenge competition, for employees all around the world. In 2017, we beat other countries by presenting the way drones can support business in various industries, whereas in 2018, we were winners thanks to the Tax Fraud Prevention Platform tool, which helps entrepreneurs fight against the risk of falling victim to VAT scams.
Artificial intelligence is already in use
In the course of several years of the Innovation@Poland programme, PwC services were expanded to include a few more solutions developed by employees. Interestingly enough, the solutions are not only offered to customers, but they are also used by the company itself. One example is the M.A.I.A., People Analytics platform which uses artificial intelligence to manage corporate culture and human resources, in particular at companies undergoing a change process as a result of, for instance, a merger or dynamic development. Another solution that also uses AI is, for example, Anti-Crime Expert, which is a tool that automatically collects bank customer information from various sources, including web press reports and extracts from official databases, through evaluating thousands of articles and providing the analyst only with information that is relevant to financial crimes or terrorism financing.
At present, PwC is developing yet another Cognitive Analytics tool, namely video-analytics, which could be used for example by banks to better manage their network of branches. It is about using the data collected by cameras installed in banks, and combining them with data from other sources. The conclusions from such analysis could significantly improve customer experience and contribute to the working effectiveness of the branches.
PwC also leads an acceleration programme called PwC Startup Collider (whose 3rd edition is now running). The company invites to attend the most interesting startups from the CEE region, helping them develop products and business models and connecting them with potential customers.
Incubation of innovation at PwC is also paired with the practical implementation of solutions. What reinforces the company’s technological arm is first of all an expert team comprising over 600 experts in the implementation of technologies, including the ones created by global corporations, from SAP systems to Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics (including CRM, Customer Experience, Marketing Automation or e-Commerce).
Mike Wilder, Managing Partner of Advisory Department at PwC Polska
Two-thirds of global CEOs who took part in our ‘PwC’s 22nd CEO Survey’ believe that artificial intelligence will have greater impact on the economy than the invention of the internet. We will see if that will happen or not in the years to come; however, we can clearly see even now that the use of AI solutions is almost limitless and depends primarily on human imagination, which also crosses more and more borders.
It is certain that no company, whether it competes only in the internal domestic market, or acts as an international player, can afford a lack of innovation. And that is obviously not always about a new product or service that no-one has come up with before. Streamlining and optimising the processes, adding a new functionality – that is also innovation. Business leaders must remember that increased investments in research and development by themselves do not ensure success. The key is to build an innovation ecosystem that will support and adequately reward the creativity of employees.
The article has been published in "Newsweek Polska" on 8 April 2019.
Head of Communications, Poland, PwC Poland
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