The innovation driver

Submitting ideas, testing new things, and sharing the results: This is the core idea of Accelerate. Under the leadership of Christoph Brabandt, this initiative by Boehringer Ingelheim has helped more than 80 applicants to put their innovative ideas into practice.

Service robots and drones, chatbots, virtual reality glasses and creative spaces: Christoph Brabandt deals with an incredible range of subjects, all thanks to the employees of Boehringer Ingelheim. They have submitted over 130 proposals to Accelerate from 13 countries. The initiative promotes innovation – and is led by Brabandt. “It’s incredible how much creativity there is in this company,” he says. The business information specialist became involved with Accelerate rather accidentally. Over three years ago, a group of visionaries including Brabandt got together and asked themselves how Boehringer Ingelheim could generate ideas and innovations. Their main focus was on ways employees could learn new technologies through playful means. Before long, the idea of creating a platform with minimal barriers where people could easily share ideas and request support was born: Accelerate.

The proposals land on Brabandt’s desk. He reviews the formalities, connects the idea creators with experts who may have already submitted similar concepts, or provides valuable tips for reworking the proposals. Then comes a second stage where the proposals are submitted to the steering committee. “Our main focus is on promoting really new, disruptive ideas,” Brabandt says. When a project is approved, the creators normally receive a budget of up to 50,000 euros to bring their ideas to life. Input is provided by external partners as well as an active community that has formed on Accelerate’s portal, where participants discuss proposals and experiences.

It’s incredible how much creativity there is in this company.

Christoph Brabandt

Brabandt is also a passionate contributor to the discussions. After all, he has dedicated himself entirely to innovation for years. He supports digitalization campaigns like “Fast Forward”, helps idea creators refine their ideas in the “ideation” process, and has received training as a Design Thinking Business Coach and as a Scrum Master, a moderator for agile development teams. His goal in all this is to provide employees with the inspiration to innovate. “Good ideas are the key to our competitiveness,” he says. In this context, the ideas – particularly at Accelerate – do not necessarily need to be thoughtfully prepared business models. “The first step is to try things out and gain new knowledge,” says Brabandt. This can also mean that certain ideas or processes fail to achieve the desired success and need to be reworked.

Thanks to Accelerate, a project team from Biberach was able to procure a drone and acquire the proper licenses for flying unmanned aerial vehicles, with an eye on transporting lab materials by drone in the future. In another project, a smartphone game was programmed to motivate overweight children and teenagers to pursue a healthier lifestyle through play. And in Dubai, a service robot now greets visitors to Boehringer Ingelheim and leads them to their event or meeting rooms.

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