The power of innovation

While COVID-19 has significantly contributed to the turbulent landscape that manufacturers are navigating, the pandemic is far from the only challenge confronting the industry. New sources of competition are disrupting old business models. What was once routine — customer demand, strategic R&D investment decisions, engaging with talent and paving growth agendas — has been flipped on its axis.
As products are transformed into services, manufacturers must find ways to understand their customers better or risk losing them. The traditional linear value chain is quickly transforming into a fluid ecosystem of supply networks, requiring manufacturers to make new choices about the most reliable and cost-effective way to manage their supply chains.
As industry leaders plan for 2021 and beyond, the need to position their companies for what lies ahead has never been more critical. It’s not enough to make a quality product and bring it to market. Manufacturers must engage customers on a deeper level to identify products, services and growth opportunities that have yet to be imagined. The same ingenuity, creativity and determination that have always driven the industry’s innovative spirit can do so once more.
Since 1972, Cleveland’s Nottingham Spirk has been a powerful force in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in manufacturing. It has more than 1,300 commercialized patents and has developed numerous groundbreaking products. It has a 95 percent commercialization rate on its patents, compared with the industry average of just 5 percent.
In November, Ernst & Young LLP (EY) announced the launch of the EY-Nottingham Spirk Innovation Hub. Slated to open in spring 2021, it’s intended to be a place where imaginative ideas and concepts can be manifested into real-world approaches. Companies can bring a market need and their framework for addressing it to the Hub and use its services to bridge gaps, answer questions and take the next step toward creating a product to bring to market. The vision is to accelerate toward a future of smart commercial ecosystems serving the business, people and production, and to help clients explore the development of a sustainable production ecosystem through the lens of human behavior.
Innovation is often discussed, but creating innovation is an art. Innovation is broader than products alone — it encompasses business models, processes and customers. The Hub will focus on the path to possible, bringing together the best of EY and Nottingham Spirk’s capabilities to help companies reimagine new business models and design products.
Manufacturers make better investment and development decisions when they understand the future and have the tools to succeed. That can unlock new opportunities and process evolution. When companies embrace new strategies and shift their business models to meet the evolving needs of their clients, they open the door to innovation, leading to job creation to meet the new demands of the market.
When technology is serving humanity and solving critical needs, everyone benefits. With the expectations of shareholders, the board and your employees in mind, manufacturers should ask: Where are we now, and where do we need to go?

The long-term vision of the EY-Nottingham Spirk Innovation Hub is to establish Cleveland as an epicenter for manufacturing innovation. Through firms such as Nottingham Spirk and organizations such as JobsOhio, this vision can become a reality.

Monte Repasky is the Cleveland office managing partner at Ernst & Young LLP