Innovation

Innovation at Holcim is fundamental to meeting customers’ needs and creating value not only for them but also for the entire Group. From product technology to sustainable construction and business model innovation, Holcim strives to deliver innovation holistically.

Innovation goes beyond the Group’s core products. Holcim aims to achieve leadership in driving sustainability throughout the building life cycle by maximizing cost efficiency along the entire supply chain, meeting customers’ needs exceptionally well, and offering solutions all along the construction value chain. Holcim delivers this by fostering an innovation culture in which employees collaborate and innovate with passion.

Sustainable construction

Efforts in sustainable construction focus on the entire life cycle of applications of Holcim materials in customers’ projects. Equally important for Holcim is to support partners – whether real estate investors and developers, local communities, or building users – in achieving their own sustainable value creation. As a leading actor in the construction industry, Holcim is committed to using resources efficiently and acting in an environmentally and socially responsible way, taking into consideration effects that reach far beyond its own operations. In accordance with the Holcim Sustainable Development Ambition 2030, the Group’s sustainable construction portfolio is an integral element for achieving the target of generating a third of revenue through sustainability-enhanced solutions.

Patent management

Holcim derives its patent strategy from its business and innovation strategy. The Group patents innovative developments to reinforce its position as a preferred solution provider and to ensure its competitive advantage in strategically important innovation fields, using specific patent strategies for each field. An aligned innovation process ensures a strong link between Innovation and Patent Management to protect the intellectual property that is developed. Today Holcim has about 60 patent families and approximately 450 granted patents or patent applications, establishing the Group as one of the leading cement companies worldwide in patenting.

Business model innovation

Business model innovation is a strategic focus area for Holcim in its efforts to sustain long-term success. Innovative business models complement new product introductions by providing new mechanisms for value creation and value capture and engaging the entire construction value chain. To tackle the challenges ahead, Holcim has developed a systematic business model innovation approach aiming to support innovators in designing and implementing new business models and thereby leveraging the overall innovation potential of the Group.

The six innovation fields of Holcim

© Holcim Ltd

Innovation Fields

1.
Integrated market solutions

 

2.
New materials/ functionalities

 

3.
Low-carbon solutions

 

4.
Low-energy solutions

 

5.
Waste/recycling opportunities

 

6.
Lean/clean/ efficient operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goals

Increase value by combining products, services and business models

 

Increase value by using new materials and enhancing functionalities

 

Increase value by reducing the CO2 footprint throughout the construction lifecycle

 

Increase value by using less or sustainable energy sources

 

Increase value by seizing new opportunities in the waste and recycling business

 

Increase value through leaner assets, improved efficiency and less emissions and waste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus on six innovation fields

Holcim continues to focus on six strategic innovation fields that offer the highest potential to add value. The following examples illustrate a few of Holcim’s innovative achievements.

1. Integrated market solutions

ACC, India: Green Building Centres
India faces a considerable housing shortage, and many homes are built by unskilled practitioners with poor construction materials. The ACC Green Building Centres provide a simple and complete solution for the low-cost construction segment in rural areas. The key success factor is the combination of offering locally produced and easy-to-use construction solutions together with training courses on how to produce and apply these products in the rural context. The construction products are produced in the Green Building Centres by workers trained in the center and using in-house industrial machinery, thereby creating jobs and building trade capabilities. These simple construction products enable comfortable, safe, and affordable housing solutions. Training in the Green Building Centres gives people the skills they need not only to build their own houses but to establish their own businesses as tradespeople. Sustainable construction techniques are promoted by using locally sourced materials and incorporating alternative materials like fly ash, which significantly reduces CO2 emissions. This example of business model innovation is a sustainability-enhanced solution that reduces environmental impact and provides lasting socioeconomic improvement.

2. New materials/functionalities

Holcim France: High-performance concrete
With the introduction of Opticeo®, Holcim France developed an innovative solution for the high-performance concrete and high-durability market. The range of binders is complemented with related services, including support in concrete design and performance testing. As a premixed ready-to-use hydraulic binder, the new product provides advantages in concrete buildings and structures, civil engineering works, and precast concrete elements. And due to its color, it also allows production of light-colored concrete.

3. Low carbon solutions

Holcim Switzerland: Alternative mineral components for composite cements
New customized cement types using alternative mineral components like mixed rubber granulate are being developed. These new customized cement types can be used for making lean concrete and concrete for construction purposes with no specific durability requirements. The approach is to produce new types of composite cements with alternative mineral components that are directly milled or mixed together with the cement clinker and other constituents. By using alternative semi-reactive materials directly in the cement production process, CO2 emissions can be reduced and natural resources conserved, making this a sustainability-enhanced solution. The solution closes the material cycle for construction materials like cement and concrete and prevents unnecessary landfilling.

4. Low-energy solutions

Fan efficiency improvement
The multiplication of low-energy solutions such as fan efficiency improvement by using online measuring and monitoring tools continued successfully during 2014. Implementation has been carried out in 34 operating companies, covering 93 percent of all larger fans in the Holcim Group. The year closed with a rate of 80 percent global implementation. Holcim is committed to continue the multiplication of such solutions to identify low performing assets, take the necessary measurements and therefore substantially reduce the consumption of electrical energy.

5. Waste/recycling opportunities

Ecorec Eastern Europe: Mobile sorting line for municipal solid waste
Most municipal solid waste in Eastern Europe is dumped into landfills. Holcim’s local waste management unit ecorec offers mobile sorting lines to companies that collect municipal waste. The mobile sorting line offers flexibility and extends the waste pre-processing service. By sorting, the companies recover valuable waste for recycling and the remaining useful waste is sent to ecorec pre-processing plants where it is turned into alternative fuel. This provides Holcim a stable and long-term alternative fuel supply and reduces landfill volumes.

6. Lean/clean/efficient operations

Roller-driven vertical roller mill
To establish an improved concept for vertical roller mills, Holcim collaborated with a main equipment supplier in France to jointly develop a set of modifications and optimizations. Combining their technical knowledge in mills, the two companies engineered design modifications that reduce power consumption without compromising the high-quality production of high-strength ordinary Portland cement. The first roller-driven vertical roller mill was implemented using a step-by-step approach. It is the world’s first application of this type of mill used to produce high-strength ordinary Portland cement.

Holcim Innovation Fund

The Holcim Innovation Fund has proven to be a strong incentive to drive innovation across the Group and foster an innovation culture. Several strategic innovation initiatives around the world have been funded in order to develop new solutions that can be multiplied, delivering growth and value to Holcim’s customers.