Speaking at TechConnect World Innovation Conference, John Homoelle, Director of New Technology & Regulatory Affairs, at Michelman tells TechConnect about their technology and investment areas of interest.
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?Our focus has always been to provide solutions to our customers and markets that provide environmentally friendly alternatives to incumbent technology and products currently offered. Typically this has been accomplished by offering water based dispersions of materials that traditionally were provided only in solvent based matrices or manufactured by means that use energetically unfavorable processes. In today’s markets we seek alternative materials that may be renewably based, and are sustainable. Other areas of interest to us include means to enhance digital printing quality, heat seal between two dissimilar polymeric materials, strength improvement of composite structures through sizing enhancement, materials that provide water/moisture barrier, minimize oxygen transfer, scuff, anti-block, abrasion resistance, slip control, adhesion, and anti-corrosive coatings and additives to name a few. We also seek alternative processing mechanisms for manufacturing water based polymeric dispersions, novel non-woven binders and materials that can prolong shelf life of fresh foods such as meat, poultry, fish and produce.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
We typically look for technologies that are beyond theoretical and have been developed sufficiently so as to give us a reason to believe that it can work. This can be in partnership with research firms, academic institutions that have a strong tie to industry and other companies on a global basis. Initiatives that generally are still “on the drawing board” i.e., where no active development has begun generally are not of interest to us. Beyond the concept, we look to organizations that have a good cultural fit to us in how they address challenges.
Please describe your company’s Innovation model and how this model helps to find new innovations.
We have two technology divisions—New Technology, whose purpose it is to discover new transformative/disruptive innovations to support our three business groups and Commercial Technology that operates within the purview of each Business Group. New Technology constantly interfaces with the marketing and technology functions of each Business Group and determines their market/customer needs for which no internal solutions seem to exist. New Technology is then tasked with performing the scouting work in these areas, evaluating them and bringing them back to the Business Groups if it feels that the idea/concept has merit. Scouting is done through conversations with universities, national labs, research firms, conferences, other companies and with organizations that post these challenges on a public global basis. We also review our innovation model to see if there are better models being developed that could be implemented. Typically these are done through trade associations such as the Industrial Research Institute. Finally, to support some of our efforts, we seek out funding opportunities and write grant proposals to the governmental agencies seeking a solution to their need that also aligns with our market needs.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
We work with TechConnect in an effort to discover new technologies that are complementary to our perceived and real needs. We look to meet with universities, startup companies, governmental agencies, and research firms as well as network with other companies who attend for the same reasons as Michelman. This offers a wonderful opportunity to find synergies that can have market changing implications.
What did you like most about the 2015 conferences?
TechConnect is just that, opportunities to, in one location, meet and discover companies, agencies, universities and research firms that have potential solutions to our needs. TechConnect is literally a target rich hunting ground! TechConnect 2015 did not fail in this area, and in that regard, it was well worth the time and expense to attend!