Interview Of The Week

Interview Of The Week: Saman Sabazvatan, Innovation Expert

Saman Sarbazvatan , who has an Executive Doctorate in Business Administration, is a professor and a senior advisor to decision makers, innovators, and investors across the public and private sectors on digital and responsible innovation and transformation and is considered an Industry 5.0 thought leader. He is the COO, Vice Dean, and the Head of Programs and Instructional Design of École des Ponts Business School of École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) in Paris, Senior Advisor of Technology and Innovation at the Circular Economy Research Center (CERC), Center for Policy and Competitiveness (CPC-Paris), and the Circular Economy Alliance, the 2023 Chair of Harvard’s European Chapter of Microeconomics of Competitiveness, and the Founding Director of the Tech Center of Ecole des Ponts. Sarbazvatan, a speaker at the Women In Tech Global Summit, recently spoke to The Innovator about why corporates need to embrace Industry 5.0.

Q: How do you define industry 5.0?

SS: Industry 5.0 is the responsible shift of businesses, societies, and markets toward socioenvironmental welfare. There are two megatrends that are driving this transition: the digital economy transition and the responsible economy transition.

The drivers of the responsible economy transition are restorative, sustainable, and regenerative initiatives, strategies, and frameworks, such as SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance]; the circular economy; and the increasing awareness, pressure, and support of consumers, producers, providers, investors, and policy and regulatory bodies in response to the exacerbating social, economic, and environmental challenges that we face globally. The responsible economy transition is significantly enabled by the technology and digital economy transition.

The dual transition of digital and responsible economies toward Industry 5.0 is giving rise to strong enabling and disrupting forces on all fronts, and driving foundational shifts in value systems, strategic decision making, and competitiveness indices across industries and markets.

Q: How will this impact business?

SS: Companies across all sectors will need to innovate in their ESG initiatives and strategies to remain competitive in markets that are increasingly impact driven. The circular economy transition is another major driver of digital and responsible innovation that is progressively reshaping the business, economic, and operational modeling across markets and geographies.

Technology is a major enabler of such initiatives. In addition to established institutions, startups are increasingly leveraging technology to capture the potential of the evolving markets.

Other enabling and disrupting forces that all actors need to deal with are the evolving policy and regulatory landscapes and the increasing stakeholder demand for green, restorative, sustainable, and regenerative business models, economic models, and markets.

Organizations that are behind on the integration of a responsible economy transition will face the same level of risk that those that lag in the digital economy transformation are facing. It is of utmost importance for leaders and decision makers to take advantage of the emerging opportunities at the convergence of these enabling and disruptive forces. Exploring industry 5.0 is not only a competitive edge for front runners but also a strategic hedge against the volatility of global supply chains and the globally increasing socioeconomic turmoil.

Q: How should companies prepare?

SS: All actors will need to dynamically realign their innovation, development, and transformation strategies to reflect the evolving value systems so they can remain competitive and efficiently and quickly respond to the demands of the market and those of the regulatory bodies.

The common theme across most of these challenges, if not all, is the gap of skills needed to lead, manage, and efficiently drive digital and responsible innovation and transformation. Across industries and sectors actors will need to reinforce their skillset and innovation capacity building. This needs to be reflected at all levels and requires upskilling and reskilling of the current work force in parallel with preparing the next generation. Those in charge today are also training the leaders of tomorrow and if they are not familiar with the risks and the opportunities of the dual transition there could be a major misalignment in leadership succession planning strategies..

Another significant challenge is the coverage, reach, and scalability of existing ecosystems that leverage technology for responsible innovation. Partnerships, alliances, and consortia are increasingly being stressed in policy initiatives and strategies at local, national, and regional levels.

There are a plethora of known and unknown challenges and opportunities. There’s only one way to prepare for them: engage with the dual transition and proactively contribute to responsible leadership.

Q: How does the École des Ponts Business School’s new tech center aim to tackle some of those challenges?

SS: Our recently announced tech center provides a multistakeholder platform to promote digital and responsible transformation and innovation across industries. We will drive these initiatives collectively with the alumni network and the scientific, academic, industrial, and public and private consortia partners of Ecole des Ponts.There are four main pillars of activities at the tech center: Research Lab, Skills Lab, Consulting Lab, and Innovation Lab.These labs also transversally interconnect our other initiatives at our Circular Economy Research Center, Center for Advanced Leadership, Emerging Markets Case Center, Center for Policy and Competitiveness, and our Futures Literacy Chair at UNESCO.

We are co-developing an empowering ecosystem of different stakeholders that includes individual expert practitioners, researchers, innovators, investors, and institutions from across industries. For example, in addition to several very valuable partners that we will announce soon, we just announced our first strategic partnership with Women in Tech. The aim is to launch several joint initiatives across our four labs in 2023 with this brilliant network of international women in technology. The objective is to collaboratively promote digital and responsible innovation and transformation with Women in Tech across borders, disciplines, and contexts.

Q: Why should corporates get involved?

SS: Corporates, NGOs, investors, and all actors have strong reasons to get involved. By joining the Tech Center, partners get insight into the forthcoming trends in markets and industries across our four labs and can proactively contribute to the joint initiatives.

In addition to staying abreast of the emergence, divergence, and convergence of technologies and combinatorial innovations, they can gain a better understanding about the upcoming trends of a wide intersection of industries and markets. This will also help them better respond to regulatory requirements and spot strategic opportunities to leverage the policy initiatives and strategies for innovation and competitiveness.

The transition to the responsible economy is putting pressure on corporates. Increasingly startups are taking the place of major players because they are more flexible in adopting their operational model to reduce their environmental footprint, for example, or in integrating emerging technologies such as Web3 and digital twins. Disrupting major players is becoming easier for entrepreneurs as the challenges and opportunities are exponentially expanding across sectors and intersection of industries. At the same time consumers and investors are also more interested in pro-socioenvironmental initiatives. The increasing adoption of this evolving value system on all fronts and geographies means that it is only a matter of time before lagging strategies and business and economic models expire.

Corporates have an opportunity to be a part of this transformation and facilitate the initiatives by providing the funds, expertise, and experience that startups and new initiatives might lack. Putting resources into responsible innovation is smart. It is what consumers and regulators are increasingly demanding and can help companies position themselves in new markets and more efficiently use natural, human, economic, and financial resources.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.