Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

The Art of Innovation: Saskia Vlaar: Saskia Vlaar Puts Her Passion for Finding Real-Life Applications for New Technologies to Work Bringing Digital Innovation to Shell

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

The Art of Innovation: Saskia Vlaar: Saskia Vlaar Puts Her Passion for Finding Real-Life Applications for New Technologies to Work Bringing Digital Innovation to Shell

Article excerpt

I was born a mathematical child to a family of psychologists, and I have always had both sides in me. I have a very structured, logical, analytical mind, but I am also interested in people and patterns of behaviors. I studied econometrics and operations research because I was fascinated with problems that sound very, very easy, but in fact are very, very tough to crack.

Before Shell, I worked at TNO, which is a not-for-profit organization with the goal of ensuring the future of Dutch society through innovation. I really liked working there because it brought me into contact with many businesses. I started as a manager and worked as the company's Secretary for a while, working directly with the board, highest levels of government, and businesses. In my last role there, as director, I was responsible for two clusters of applied research: Defense Technology and IT Innovation. It was exciting to see businesses change through the application of new thinking and new technology.

I moved to Shell to work for the CTO doing what I love best, which is making sure that we use the technology we develop. Technology plays an important role in making innovation work, but it's not all about the technology. It's really about managing the change that comes with it. If you try to push that envelope of the possible, the change component is just as important as the technology component. You may have a, very bold vision, you may know where you want to be in the future--even if the rest of the company does not subscribe to it yet--but you need to find ways to make it very practical and very in the now to bring people along.

I am now responsible for bringing digital capabilities to our businesses. My team looks at topics that have cross-business potential--topics like blockchain, machine vision, additive manufacturing, high-performance computing, advanced analytics, and robotics. …

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