Vedanta’s innovation task force at work on next big idea – by Megha Mandavia (The Economic Times [India] – July 23, 2015)

MUMBAI: Senior managers at Vedanta have been meeting every quarter over the past one year to discuss new ideas and exchange notes with chief executive Tom Albanese on the next possible big innovation at the natural resources conglomerate. The executives are members of the ‘innovation task force’ which has a clear brief to increase the number of patent filings and bring down the cost of production by using disruptive technology.

The task force, chaired by Albanese and comprising of five other senior officials, is supported by a dedicated team working at each location to promote creative and innovative culture across the group, the company said.

“Anil Agarwal is very focused on the importance of exciting young engineers thinking outside the box and be seen to be using disruptive technology,” Albanese told ET. “I ask people to think about what they can do differently to change process and how they can use their technical knowledge to redesign the process. I want senior leadership to be propagating that to the engineers and want the ideas to come up from the businesses.”

The company is already in the process of filing nearly 20 patents and working on many more, executives said. Its inhouse technological innovations are in the field of exploration, processing, waste disposal and new product development. Among the innovations that it is working include the use of nanotechnology for various processes.

It also works with various institutions of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and academic institutions such as Indian Institutes of Technology and National Institute of Technology. One of the aims of the task force is to formalise the company’s strategy and approach towards intellectual property. Vedanta, one of lowest cost producers in the world, is devoting resources to patent filing in order to have commercial control over its innovations, Albanese said.

Albanese joined Vedanta in 2013 from Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining firms, bringing a global perspective into Vedanta. When Sesa Sterlite was renamed Vedanta a few months ago and underwent a rebranding exercise, the company included ‘first-time innovation’ as one of its brand values. Australia-based BHP Billiton is known globally for innovation.

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