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Jacobis centres for technology innovation, research and development are located in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. This provides us with a global perspective as well as many other benefits from working internationally.

We all play a role in

Innovation is crucial for most companies. Staying ahead of the competition and finding new markets, means a technology leader like Jacobi must adapt to a constantly changing world and diverse customer needs. We contacted John Lever, Global Technical director, to discuss the keys to success and how we all play an essential role in innovation: “Now more than ever, it is important to know what is on the ‘wish-list’ of our existing customers.”

Where does Jacobi primarily get its innovative drive?

First and foremost, there are the current needs of the market to consider. These are generally those that feedback through the sales team and their interaction with customers.
Secondly, there are the future needs of the market. We get these in several ways either from trade journals or from the visits of our sales managers and from more technical personnel with our customers.

Thirdly, and from a long-term perspective, we receive much of our innovation drive from information gathered from attending seminars, exhibitions, and interaction with educational establishments.

“True innovation often comes directly from Jacobi’s idea factory.”

What part does business competition play?

For the size of the company we are today, we have few larger competitors. Instead, we find ourselves emulated by others. So now more than ever, it is important to know what is on the “wish-list” of our existing customers.

Where does the Innovation Team seek inspiration?

Universities around the world often conduct innovative science in the field of specialty adsorbents. In the cash-focused world we live in, universities are keen to develop commercial activities with partners or in their own spin-off companies. Over the past few years, Jacobi has developed strong links with many universities and other research establishments. Never before has the pool of potential projects been higher in the field of adsorption science.

New frontiers include the use of activated carbons in carbon capture, building construction, isotopic separation, and even as supports for other adsorbents. Away from traditional sorption processes, the opportunities are seemingly endless.

“By working together, all teams will guarantee a good future for the company.”

How much of the innovative ideas come from within Jacobi?

True innovation often comes directly from Jacobi’s idea factory. It is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the daily routine in the development process of our products. Although the nexus of our technical capability rests in Japan, there are often ideas from all levels and regions of the company ranging from the strange and impossible, to the more mundane efforts of our process optimisation.

How does the research and development team work?

The key to turning ideas into reality is the great collaboration with OGC and their input. It drives us to develop our application capabilities around the world. The R&D team’s ability to work with ideas, manufacturing, and application in one group allows us to develop faster and more precisely than ever before.

“What makes it work? The simple answer is communication.”

Is it true that some level of failure is an important part of progress? 

A lot of what is achieved by the innovation team is as much about failure as it is about success.
It is from failures that we learn more and have the insight to better the degree of success achieved. This is important data and ensures we are developing the new technologies and the
products to meet the more rigorous demands placed on them.

What is the key to success?

The biggest question is what makes it work, and the simple answer to that is communication. By ensuring that all stakeholders are involved not only speeds up the process but also allows critical self-reflection.

Could you give us an example?

Wherever possible we seek to make the development of a product as simple as we can.  However, that material may not be marketable due to price or regulatory reasons. Perhaps it is not considered to be in line with our sustainability principles, or it does not fit into our existing product architecture. In that case, at an early stage, a critical eye can ensure these targets are all achieved within the innovation framework.

What type of collaboration does this require?

This process alone will never achieve a commercial proposition for our customers. The key to getting a product off the drawing board and into the hands of the end-users is the collaboration between the innovation group and the sales team. Knowing who the customer base will be and what the value of the innovation is to them is critical in making sure that the innovation is targeted and focused on the optimised commercial outcome.

By working together, all teams will guarantee a good future for the company. It will also help us look forward to areas where we can attain the market-leader status Jacobi deserves. This is truly what our innovation, research, and application development teams are all about.

John Lever is one of the longest-serving members of the Jacobi team, having just passed 21 years with the company. However, his tenure in activated carbon dates back to August 1987, when he joined Sutcliffe Speakman in the production planning department. This extensive experience over the years has developed his understanding of the unique world of activated carbon, as have his former roles at Jacobi as Sales Executive and Country Manager.

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