A Perfect Illustration of Our Pioneer Spirit
Innovation is much more than a growth driver. It’s an accelerator for the company, hence the emphasis on daring to take risks. The reason we’re a leader in energy today is that we’ve always managed to cultivate pioneer spirit in our employees. Innovation means treating “new ideas” with the importance they deserve, to make our future projects viable, acceptable and cost-effective. Emmanuel Thomazo, Deputy Senior Vice President, Strategy, Business Development and R&D in Exploration & Production, shares his insights.
What is Best Innovators?
Emmanuel Thomazo: Best Innovators is Exploration & Production’s in-house innovation competition. It’s been around for more than 20 years and recognizes employees, regardless of field, who have developed innovative projects. Every entry is reviewed based on a variety of criteria, including its innovative nature, technical contribution, simplicity, whether it can be reproduced elsewhere and cost culture.
So Best Innovators throws an annual spotlight on our innovativeness while striving to inspire others to follow suit. We want our employees to identify with the winners and innovate themselves. With more than 60 competing entries each year, it’s clear that the excitement has spread to all our teams, at headquarters and affiliates alike.
Why is it so important to inspire people to be innovators?
E. T.: For 150 years, since the first oil well was drilled, we’ve had to develop a whole range of technologies to achieve feats such as the Raya-1 well drilled in a water depth of more than 3,000 meters. As a result, our history is studded with world firsts, technological revolutions and innovative processes. Examples include horizontal drilling, sour gas treatment, the first all-electric subsea well and a miniaturized biological process to detoxify produced water, to name just a few.
They all illustrate our pioneer spirit, a Total value that continues to drive us today. And for good reason: innovation is an engine of our performance. Given the challenges we face, especially in safety, the environment and business performance, it is crucial to continuously adapt in order to achieve our ambition of providing affordable energy to a growing global population.
It’s up to all employees to brainstorm and propose innovative projects in line with this vision. So we must encourage them to do that, by sending a loud and clear message: “Go for it.” Our teams have to be boldly enterprising, strike out on new paths and innovate.
Is this competition the only way that you spur innovation?
E. T.: Far from it. Best Innovators is just the first and oldest building block in a program that has grown significantly in the last few years. We now have a full-fledged, comprehensive innovation ecosystem.
It includes, Build'INN, a collaborative innovation platform developed at Total. An easy-to-use tool available to everyone, it lets anyone post ideas that will be looked at closely by the innovation network in charge of examining them. Ideas with development potential will be financed, with personnel assigned to develop it. Another major building block is the Booster incubators in Paris and, soon, at the CSTJF engineering and research center in Pau, where construction is under way. All E&P employees interested in innovating to improve our operations and hatch new solutions can develop their projects in this internal incubator, using methods inspired by start-ups. For high-stakes projects, there is the Innovation & Expertise Pathways program, led by our CTO Marie-Noëlle Semeria, to provide small teams with additional resources to develop these often very technology-focused projects.
Lastly, some of our teams are now working on solutions that seem outside the purely oil and gas scope, such as robotics, biotech and even nanotechnology. So we went the open innovation route to design the very first autonomous surface robot for oil and gas sites, tapping diverse skills and expertise outside Total and our core business. And let’s not forget our current project for a portable lab to analyze bacteria genomes. It will enable us to adjust the bactericides we inject during operations.
2018 Prize List
First Judges' Award - Ultra-Fast PcRI
Second Award - Valvometry
Third Award - Glide
Honorary Chair Award - Cement-sheath Integrity
Employees' Choice Award - AKPO Flex Joint Repairs
Research & Development
The Driving Force Behind Total’s Competitiveness
The 10 Innovations Rewarded in 2017
Best Innovators - CNBC
'Be Bold, Go For It'