May 3 2018

“The power is shifting towards the end user in the construction sector”

Minas Apelian, the Director of NOVA, Saint-Gobain’s external ventures arm, states that in coming years innovation will be in high demand and steered by the end-user.

Today, in the world of construction, power lies in the hands of large companies. They ultimately determine the technologies used in real estate and influence customers at the time of purchase. As consumers have more access to information, especially with internet, this tends to change. The demand for innovation will come directly from the end-users as stated by Minas Apelian, the Director of NOVA, the external ventures arm of Saint-Gobain, France’s leading construction company.

"If I had to bet on what will be the next revolution in the industry, I would say that is where the power is in the construction cycle," says the executive. "The consumer takes control over the choices, they will demand innovation. This has the potential to change the dynamics of the industry. "

Discreet, white-haired, and with the demeanor of a university professor, the executive set foot in Brazil for the first time at the end of February to meet local startups, universities and incubators, such as Unicamp University and CUBO. The purpose of the visits was to brainstorm, share ideas on how to better support Saint-Gobain’s business units around the world and assess the Brazilian ecosystem with his team members who are based in Boston, Paris and Shanghai. Minas came to Brazil accompanied by three American colleagues, two from France and one from China. "I want my team to spend time to immerse themselves in what is happening in Brazil and share their experience with colleagues located in other parts of the world." he says.

Engaging startups and research centers in the country is part of the Group's strategy. Through NOVA, Saint-Gobain monitors the market in search of great ideas, the latest technologies and new talent. In return, it supports startups’ growth in the form of market access, financial resources, and the ability for startups to rapidly test their business models on a large scale.

"We focuses on diverse businesses: for example, engineering ceramics used in aerospace; glass, which is the material at the origin of our company; and other building materials. We have many different needs. NOVA works with all these businesses and segments to understand how we can support them, what are their strategic plans for the future, and what will help them to be successful." says Apelian.

In NOVA’s twelve years of existence, more than 3,200 startups were evaluated. In Brazil, 86% of Saint-Gobain’s projects with startups are companies developing digital technologies, states Thierry Fournier, Saint-Gobain’s General Delegate in the country. There are about one hundred initiatives in progress, but in the wake of Minas Apelian's visit to Brazil, this number will most likely rise.

Article translated from Epoca Negocios online. To read the original article in Portuguese, click here.





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