The agency’s creation of the GE ‘Innovation Barometer’, a research based engagement and thought leadership platform, gave GE the opportunity to help shape and engage in decisions on the future of innovation in Europe. It was timed to coincide with the European Union’s “Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative - Innovation Union” which reviewed the prospects for technological growth and development in Europe over the next 10 years.
In less than 90 days, it earned GE a privileged position, alongside key political stakeholders, at the heart of the innovation debate.
GE has been putting “imagination at work” since 1896, with a particular emphasis on innovation in green technologies. However, perceptions of key European political stakeholders of the company as an exclusively American organization have made it difficult for GE to play a significant role in discussions about the development of innovative technology in Europe.
In the spring of 2010 an opportunity to address this perceptional barrier was provided by the European Union’s (EU) development of its ‘2020 Strategy’ for growth and development. GE’s challenge to the agency team was to make use of the opportunity to access decision makers in Europe and put the company at the heart of important conversations and decisions about the future of innovation in Europe.
In particular, GE wished to demonstrate its willingness to participate in the creation of a greener and more competitive European economy, and encourage a more simplified process for accessing EU structural funds for innovative projects. This initiative was also an occasion for GE to affirm its enthusiasm for both public-private partnerships and collaboration between large corporations and SMEs, and finally to stress the need for a common pan-European patent to guarantee innovation return on investment.
Create a piece of high value intellectual property, the GE “Innovation Barometer.“ that would:
• Showcase the insights of important stakeholders on the current state of innovation policies in the EU to influence the debate about the future of innovation and long term sustainable development.
• Disseminate the results to key policy leaders and stakeholders in order to reinforce GE’s credentials as a major employer in Europe and a leader in the field of innovation both today and over the long term.
This distinctive challenge demanded a unique response. It was necessary for Public Affairs and Research to “come together” to find the best opportunity for the client. An engagement strategy was developed, consisting of research and analysis of existing EU Eurobarometer reports and Intellectual Property studies as well as a stakeholder mapping and identification of the most influential people in the EU innovation debate.
Preliminary research conducted by the agency among EU stakeholders highlighted how GE was widely perceived as ‘opportunistic.’
As a result, it was considered essential to create something of tangible value that would demonstrate the company’s willingness to listen to European innovation stakeholders and actively contribute to the development of the EU innovation strategy.
High level innovation stakeholders were specifically pursued for this campaign in order to better inform results and keep people engaged in the topic.
Members of the EU Parliament, senior officials in various DG’s of the European Commission (enterprise, education, culture, research and innovation) as well as senior editors in Brussels based media, academics, think-tank leaders and NGO’s were all targeted.
An independent survey was conducted with 240 Brussels opinion leaders on innovation policies in the European Union. Qualitative interviews were also conducted with high level stakeholders from Europe, the United States and China.
The research focused on identifying the factors that hinder innovation, how innovation is defined across sectors and cultures and the benefits a strong innovation policy could have in Europe.
Results Preview in July 2010:
• A private preview of the results of the study were presented to a core group of important EU based stakeholders, think tanks and MEP’s including Sean Kelly, who would later disseminate the results of the
study to the European Parliament.
Ecoimagination Launch in July 2010:
• The preliminary results of the ‘Innovation barometer’ were presented at GE’s European R&D center in Munich to coincide with the launch of the GE Ecoimagination challenge - a $200m investment by GE and venture capital firms inviting candidates from around the world to submit tangible ideas on changing the way we use energy.
General Electric Europe Innovation Barometer Event in September 2010:
• Timing was key. The “Innovation barometer” was formally launched on Sept 14th by Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, ahead of the “Innovation Union”, capitalising on interest by policy makers in the topic.
• The results were shared with an audience of 80 persons consisting of European Commission senior officials, member state representatives from the EU, members of the European Parliament, representatives from relevant civil society and business trade associations, as well as GE Europe.
• A white paper of the study was distributed to all attendees and journalists after the event.
• As a follow up to the launch, Edelman Brussels organized a number of one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders and launched the “Innovation lunches” series. The first one took place on the 10th
November and resulted in the Barometer being mentioned at the Plenary Session of the European Parliament on the same day.
• GE is invited to brainstorm with MEPs on the legislative review of EU innovation and research strategies.
Showcase the insights of important stakeholders on the current state of innovation policies in the EU to influence the debate about the future of innovation and long term sustainable development.
• Creation of a piece of high value intellectual property, the GE ‘Innovation Barometer.’
• 240 high level opinion leaders polled in the innovation barometer study.
• Multi-Country staff collaboration consisting of Edelman Brussels and StrategyOne France.
• 85% of respondents believe encouraging closer public-private cooperation is important to support innovation in the EU.
• 78% of respondents believe the energy sector is the sector that would most benefit from a more efficient EU innovation policy
Disseminate the results to key policy leaders and stakeholders in order to reinforce GE’s credentials as a major employer in Europe and a leader in the field of innovation both today and over the long term.
• 100 key players from the innovation community previewed the preliminary research at GE’s Global Research Centre in Munich including Sean Kelly, MEP.
• 80 high-level EU staff were presented results from the campaign in Brussels including the participation of the EU’s most senior official on innovation, Irish Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Hans Martens, Chief Executive of the European Policy Center
• Over 200 white papers distributed to EU commissioners, GE representatives, business professionals and journalists.
• 2,000 entries in GE’s ecoimagination challenge, of which 250 are from Europe
• Sean Kelly, MEP mentioned the Barometer at a November 2010 Plenary Session of the European Parliament to 736 EU representatives. The topic was on innovation.
• An expansion of the Barometer study to 12 other countries so that the data can be launched at the next meeting of the World Economic Forum.
• 1000 white papers distributed at the EU Open Days annual event that invites cities and regions to showcase capacity for job creation and EU policy cohesion.
“I welcome the strong support shown in this Barometer's findings for closer public/private cooperation to promote innovation. I also warmly welcome GE's new 160 million Euro "Ecomagination Challenge" fund for
businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students seeking financing for ideas to create a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable power grid.” -- Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
“The GE EU Innovation Barometer delivered real tangible results for GE both in terms of building the profile and level of engagement and relationship capital among a vast array of key stakeholders in Brussels and beyond. In addition it increased GE's opportunity to be part of the Innovation debate in the EU and have a real input into policy debate surrounding the publication of the European Commission's Innovation Union Flagship strategy.” Hugh Gillanders, Director of Public Affairs - Europe GE
Evaluation of Success
The programme created multiple opportunities for GE to share its point of view with many of the most important people involved in innovation policies and investments within the EU, including the EU’s most senior innovation official, Irish Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Hans Martens, Chief Executive of the European Policy Center. It also significantly raised the profile of the company as an innovation leader among influential politicians and legislators, so much so that GE managers were then invited to brainstorm with MEPs on future innovation strategies.
The Barometer was even mentioned at the Plenary Session of the European Parliament.
As a direct result of the success of this initiative, GE has asked the agency to expand the Barometer study to 12 other countries so that the data can be launched at the next meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.