Dominic Kurtaz: “Ecosystems mean knowledge exchange”

Dominic Kurtaz, Managing Director EuroCentral of Dassault Systèmes, on the role of digital knowledge platforms – both for innovation and new customer value

How has the virtual workplace changed as a result of the Corona pandemic?

Corona has certainly helped expand the tools and areas of virtual collaboration. Now it comes down to the tools that can create connectivity between people and teams based on core data-driven processes in the enterprise. For us, this has been the impetus to evolve our data-driven platforms. For our customers, the Digital Twin, the virtual mapping of production, has become much more important. This is an initial transformation that has also been accelerated by COVID-19. But we still have a long way to go. What does digital transformation mean for research and development, for engineering? And the big issue now is also the B2B perspective on this – how the classic sales process is changing. Getting to know specifications with less or hardly any personal interaction, commissioning and maintenance without a personal presence on site – that will significantly increase the value of the virtual twin. It is no longer just a data element for faster innovation and greater efficiency. It will become a medium for interaction with customers – that is a very exciting development for me.

Corona has helped to rediscover a holistic perspective of the company.

How quickly will this process take place in companies with very different setups?

You mention the different speeds at which companies are tackling digitization. You see, we have customers whose online business was practically zero before Corona and who now generate 40 percent of their sales online. With this incredible momentum, the question is how to make this change intentionally scalable and truly sustainable. What rapid digitization can force in the company is the central value proposition to customers. Their experience as users, the readiness for service, for sustainability. Corona has helped to rediscover a holistic perspective of the company.

Dassault’s eco-systems include both classic manufacturers and young companies that one would have to call digital natives. How do you make the so-called “digital gap” smaller?

Start-ups are indeed very often focused on creating from nothing. But they also have to be able to convince their customers and investors that their product is marketable. The virtualization of product development helps decisively in this regard. This is one of the reasons why we have long been present in ecosystems of SMEs and startup networks, we felt actually at home there in the literal sense. In our global network of Experience Labs, we motivate startups to innovate with us. We provide them with physical spaces where they can invite their ecosystems to collaborate with them – but also, of course, to use brand new technologies. Our new 3D ExperienceLab in Munich, which we will open early next year, is one example of this. Now that the world is returning to some semblance of normalcy, we want to help the industry build stronger connections between established manufacturers and a whole pool of innovative startups and disruptors. Innovation no longer happens in classic hierarchical chains, tied to big contracts. Innovation also takes place in places, in industries, in company sizes that no one expected before. For us, the interplay, the knowledge exchange of all these networks is an important part of future value creation.

What our customers can now achieve digitally for their own customers anywhere in the world is something we could not have imagined five or ten years ago

What role does the cloud play in this new world of innovation?

A very crucial one! It is simply the fundamental prerequisite for collaboration in these networks. Startups and enterprises don’t have the time or expertise, or even the desire, to make lengthy software adjustments before launching projects. The cloud makes it possible to enter a knowledge network immediately. For me, that is the absolute key. It’s the only way we can link the different worlds of industry – management, design, marketing and sales – with product development in the labs. In such a diverse and innovative industrial landscape as here in Germany, bringing these networks together, sharing knowledge and experience – that is an important task in this global innovation center that Germany still represents, and one to which we can contribute.

Nevertheless, innovation processes always have to be organized in a global context…

Yes, that’s true. As a global company, our solutions are designed to enable global and local “fitness” for our customers. It’s about understanding exactly what’s happening on the ground. Think of a player like Tesla, one of our most important customers in the new world of the automobile. It’s also a complex task for ourselves to be present with our customers in almost every major industrial region around the world, working with very different requirements, even across twelve different industries. And this is not about our systems for manufacturing. The reality is that we work in different infrastructures and areas that have very different regulatory requirements. For example, we have made significant investments in life sciences and healthcare with very stringent regulations, laws and data requirements. More than 60 percent of the clinical trials that have been done in recent months to find the vaccine for COVID-19 have been on our data platform. I think it’s good for the industry to drive cross-geo and cross-sector standards. To do that, we need some kind of global technology standards. That said, our approach to this remains that of making companies more agile in their local markets. What our customers can now achieve digitally for their own customers anywhere in the world is something we could not have imagined five or ten years ago. It will remain a fascinating environment in which we operate.

von Luca Wodtke
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