Post #81: Work here, if you want to innovate

We were particularly excited when an email from the Fast Company arrived in our inbox last week. In conjunction with Accenture, the Fast Company (an American business magazine) has produced its second annual ranking of the best workplaces for innovation. Companies of any size/ location were invited to apply and based on their responses to four questions, a panel of expert independent judges produced the rankings.

No surprise perhaps that Google and Alibaba feature in the top-ten, but the number-one spot, interestingly, is awarded to ALSAC/St Jude. Since its founding in 1957 by entertainer Danny Thomas, the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC) has raised money to fund St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (based in Memphis, TN), helping to drive the survival rate of childhood cancer patients from 20% to 80%.

While American businesses (both public and private) dominate the list, Orsted is the highest-ranked European company, placing 19th on the list. For those unfamiliar with the business, Orsted is a Danish-listed company (capitalised at ~US$60bn), which is the world’s leading developer of offshore wind farms. We have regularly made the case for wind as an alternative energy source and have become increasingly convinced. It was interesting not only to meet (virtually) with Orsted in June but also to hear Andrew Hall, the former CFO of Siemens Gamesa, a turbine manufacturer, speak at an investor event last week. 

Mr Hall highlighted how the future of the wind industry arguably lies in offshore given its increasing cost competitiveness with other energy sources, its scale (the turbines are multiples bigger than the onshore equivalent) and the fact that it is often politically easier to site turbines at sea rather than on land close to where people may live. We concur. Nonetheless, constructing offshore wind farms is much more complex than the onshore equivalent. An understanding of the oil and gas industry (how, for example, to align turbines with the seabed) matters as much as wind technology. Why is Orsted the leader in this field? Our take is simply that they have benefited from a distinct early-mover advantage – Orsted has been doing this since 1991 – and has learned from its mistakes along the way. Innovation culture matters.

Do not be disappointed if the Future Trends Blog does not appear in your inbox over the next two weeks. Your author is taking a well-deserved break (in the UK), but will return in late August.

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