Discover the experience of our students who had the chance to visit top innovation hubs and companies in Paris and Berlin.
Within the framework of our Advanced Master in Innovation & Strategic Management, a student trip has been organized earlier this year: the so called European Innovation Tour. Students visited different institutions, companies, hubs, innovation centers, organizations and met with top of the line professionals. An unforgettable experience, which offered to the participants of our Advanced Master the opportunity to visit iconic brands and well-known companies, to learn more about their operations and way of doing things, to meet leading professionals and attend their presentations, to gain insights on new technologies and topics and of course, to enjoy the magic of Paris and Berlin!
Are you eager to know more about the trip?
Scroll down, read Eline’s testimonial (Eline de Block-student of Innovation & Strategic Management 2017-2018) and get a glimpse of what participating in a Solvay Advanced Master means…
Paris, known as ‘the City of Love’ and highly valued for its fashion brands, has actually also a lot to offer in terms of innovation. That is what we discovered in 2 days at the end of April by visiting 5 companies in a variety of industries, ranging from crowdfunding to fashion.
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Visits: RATP Dev / Usine IO / Chanel
On our first day, we immediately started with a big, reknown company: RATP Dev. They provide public mobility solutions for cities like metro lines, buses, etc. all around the world. Even though their size is a competitive advantage, they face more and more competition of private mobility solutions like Uber, DriveNow, etc. We discussed RATP Dev’s strategy and the challenges they are currently facing, together with Cyrille Giraudat (Director of Digital, Marketing and Innovation) and Géraud Boursin (Head of Business Development and Performance).
Right after a nice lunch, we visited Usine IO. This was for me one of the most interesting companies, since what they do is really similar to what I learned in my master’s degree of product development. It namely is an accelerator for hardware projects, in which they advise companies without this kind of experience, from idea to manufacturing. The most valued aspect they offer their clients is the big network they get access to. A presentation and a tour was given by the founder, Gary Cige.
When being in Paris, it would be a shame not to visit a fashion house. Therefore, we got the chance to visit one of the most admired brands: Chanel. We were warmly welcomed by the CIO of the Fragrance & Beauty department, Laure Dubois and the department’s Head of Innovation, Cédric Begon. Afterwards, a presentation followed about the challenges that high fashion brands are currently facing. Previously, they were the only ones able to offer a premium customer satisfaction. Today, with technologies like Artificial Intelligence available to everyone, this ability to create high-level satisfaction can also be achieved by anyone. After the presentation, we still had a pleasant networking drink with Laure.
We finished this busy, but interesting day, with a dinner in a restaurant which is well-known among the Parisians for their delicious tapas.
Visits: Fabernovel / KissKissBankBank
Our second day started at Fabernovel, an innovation agency. This time, the focus was not on this agency, but more on their knowledge. This is why the Project Director, Maxime Coupez, gave us a presentation about Tesla’s vision for the future.
It was really interesting to see how Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, made all of his companies contribute to his bigger vision to make the future for cars connected and electric and to understand how he wants to achieve that.
Last but not least, in the afternoon, we visited the crowdfunding platform KissKissBankBank (KKBB). Sophie Pignères, the crowdfunding house coordinator, gave us more information on how crowdfunding works and how everyone can get help from it. The ground floor of the office is actually an exhibition that displays startups that have been using KKBB to launch their product. With the help of the exhibition, they want to educate people passing by on what crowdfunding actually is and what can be achieved by taking advantage of its existence. Our visit ended with a tour through their office, which was equipped with a fitness room, a kitchen and a chill room. This looked like an amazing environment full of young people to work in!
The business trip ended with some drinks in the sun and a dinner. Then it was time to take the train back home. It was a trip that offered us a variety of best industry practices, each having its own challenges.
➤ Visiting a company like Chanel for example isn’t an opportunity that you will get every day. Combine this with some talented speakers and you have a great complement on our advanced master’s courses. A trip like this gives you a better view on how innovation and strategy are put into practice.
In the beginning of May, we had the chance to visit Berlin, the capital of Germany and often called ‘the City of Freedom’. Nevertheless, we also know the German culture as one that is really disciplined and structured. This combination made Berlin an interesting location for us to learn more about how to succesfully innovate, never forgetting about the right balance between creativity and discipline. By visiting the Volkswagen Group, we couldn’t get a better example, more specifically of how to cope with the disruption of the mobility industry in all of its aspects. We also discovered how they try to stay ahead of innovative startups.
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Visits: Drive Volkswagen Group / MOIA / Audi City
On our first day, we were welcomed at the Drive Volkswagen Group forum. After a short introduction, we enjoyed a tour through the exhibition of Porsche, one of Volkswagen’s famous brands. Several cars were displayed, ranging from the very first car of Porsche until their latest concept car. It is true that innovation may get more attention these last years, but it is something that has always been around.
In the afternoon, we had an interesting discussion about MOIA with the Legal Advisor and Public Affairs Manager, Ingmar Dathe. MOIA offers intelligent, on-demand mobility solutions for urban areas. In the future, people won’t own cars anymore and therefore new services need to be developed…
To finish our first day, we visited Audi City, a new type of a digital experience store, where we got a presentation and tour by Moritz Baumann, Marketing Manager for Audi City. To attract more people passing by, Audi decided to launch this store on a high-traffic location. The store is smaller than a regular one, fitting only 3 cars, but with large, 1:1, high-definition screens, with the help of which customers can compose their own car and see it from different angles with a nearly real-life experience. With virtual reality, you can even sit in the car or watch it from a bird’s perspective. Thanks to customization, there are so many different cars available, that they cannot fit in one store anymore. That is why Audi uses digitalization to overcome this problem.
The day ended in one of Berlin’s most popular rooftop bars and afterwards, by having a typical German dinner in a parc.
Visits: Audi Denkwerstatt / Volkswagen’s Digital:Lab / D’Ieteren
Our second day started at Audi Denkwerkstatt, which is a quite peculiar office space with a ball pool and snooze corners. It offers startups a co-working space and in order to take advantage of the startup’s agile way of working, Audi decided to offer its employees too the chance to work on their own mobility project (which must have anything to do with cars) for 6 months. If they succeed to end up with a good business plan, a spinoff could be created. After 6 months, employees will have to go back to their original function.
The second stop of the day was Volkswagen’s Digital:Lab, which is responsible for the development of Volkswagen’s digital products and services. Most remarkable was their culture, which is characterized by their transparency and team work. Communication is key for projects to succeed! Therefore, every morning they provide, for example, to the employees breakfast at work, so that they can stay up-to-date with colleagues.
A quick transfer was necessary so that we are on time for a lunch debate back at the Drive Volkswagen Forum. There, we discussed about the importance of sustainability and the role of corporate culture with Daniela Blaschke from the external relations and sustainability department.
To finish our business trip, we discussed shared mobility in Antwerp with people from D’Ieteren who joined us throughout the trip. We also linked their challenges as a car distributor back to the often similar challenges for Volkswagen as a car producer.
Our trip ended on Friday, which gave to most of us the chance to stay in Berlin for the weekend to discover the vibrant city and to enjoy the weather in the numerous parcs.
➤ The official part of our trip was a unique opportunity for us to see how a big company like Volkswagen is able to keep up with the fast pace of innovation. It was also interesting to see how a big, rigid company as Volkswagen tries to become more agile by literally working with startups. This way, they are finding the right balance between the German discipline and the creativity that is highly needed for innovation!
(Thank you to D’Ieteren (and especially to Mr P. Gheeraert) for the coordination of the Berlin trip and contacts with their partners).
Paris was amazing! The variety of industries we visited made the experience richer… Disruption is everywhere!!!
Berlin was not just cars… It was about how the mobility can impact our lives. An amazing experience and a great opportunity for us to go out of the school building and taste real life…
Solvay Brussels School’s Advanced Masters have been developed to create a breed of ‘out-thinkers’ ready to tackle the continual changes of the business world. These postgraduate programmes confer Advanced Master degrees in focused areas for Master students with no or limited professional experience (normally maximum 3 years). They are designed as full-time programmes for one academic year, and represent 60 ECTS each.
With a placement rate 3 months after graduation of 80% for our graduates in marketing & innovation, discover how our Advanced Masters can help you launch your career !
☞ More information on the Advanced Master in Innovation & Strategic Management: am.solvay.edu/innovation-strategic-management
This program provides students with the essential tools, skills and mind-set needed to deal with the challenges of organizations in fast-evolving environments. It helps them to develop their ability to analyze complex challenges and integrate technology and innovation into their projects. Includes the European Innovation Tour to top Innovation Hubs in Europe.