The problem with good ideas is that they are extremely volatile. To harness all the ideas with innovation potential, the GA Group has its own specific initiative, called Eureka. This experimental laboratory collects ideas, analyzes them, nourishes them and helps them mature. For Eureka’s 10th anniversary GA’s Director of R&D Laurent Picco and Rémi Visière, BIM Developer, answer some questions.
What prompted the GA Group to create Eureka 10 years ago?
Laurent Picco : In informal discussions people often come up with ideas for improving work, such as replacing one machine by a more efficient one or improving electronic messaging. But more often than not, ideas fly out, only to be quickly forgotten. So in 2006 we decided to create a virtual space where we could collect these ideas and make sure they are followed up. Code name: Eureka.
Are all ideas worth studying?
L. P. : Yes, when they open up a way towards technical progress in employees’ work. However, even though it is not the main goal, a technique for technical innovation often improves working conditions and strengthens the personnel’s well-being.
How does Eureka give life to an idea?
L. P. : Every employee can post his or her idea via the intranet and dedicated message handling. The process is simple and efficient: I retrieve the ideas, contact the employees to clarify their thoughts if need be, and then consolidate them in a follow-up file. The Eureka committee, which is made up of top management and the heads of the different departments, meets every three months to evaluate, analyze and develop the ideas until they are either implemented or abandoned. These quarterly meetings allow us to step back and see things in perspective, and give good ideas a chance to mature.
Does Eureka involve in-house competition?
L. P. : No, and it is not desirable. A competition would highlight a single idea – one “invention” — and overshadow all the small ideas that improve everyday life at work. And small advances are precisely what makes for progress in a company.
Is it a commercial advantage?
L. P. : Definitely! When sales representatives speak to clients, they mention not only our Research and Development department but also the Eureka programme. This makes us stand out. The Eureka initiative also contributes to the fact that we have been granted quality certificates like ISO 9001 (editor’s note: implementation of a quality management system).
What major changes have been brought about by Eureka?
Rémi Visière : One example is FullBIM, a development of our 3D modelling tool. We have incorporated data and information about all the building elements into our 3D plans. When you browse through a plan, a right click on each element gives you its nature, colour, weight, price, and so on. It is a complete avatar of the building that is helpful to every user — the person who models the building, the worker on the construction site, even the occupier of the building. Each one has access to the entire data base of documents concerning the building. This development results from an idea that germinated via Eureka. Other examples stemming from Eureka include NewSkin, a system for replacing non-load-carrying façades, and iGaLum, an electronic lighting control housing.
What is the latest application derived from Eureka?
L. P. : The implementation of glass fibre connectors in sandwich panels on façades. Until now, the connection between the two concrete walls was made with steel bars, which conduct temperature and thus constitute a weak point with respect to thermal insulation. Thanks to Eureka, we have developed a way to set up new non-conductive connectors and provide a real thermal break between the inner and outer walls of the building.
What is to come?
L. P. : The subjects are extremely varied! For example, we are working hard on applications for smartphones that will be protected by secure passwords and will function in harmony with existing tools such as the GAPEO Technical Building Management tool, manual controls of our devices, and our computer programmes. So building users will be able to access a host of everyday controls from their smartphones. The applications will enable them to use their phones to regulate the equipment that enhances occupants’ comfort (air treatment modules, blinds, lights, etc.), reserve meeting rooms and directly invite participants to the meeting, geolocate equipment to facilitate maintenance, find out how much energy the equipment in their environment consumes, and even call a taxi.
We are also monitoring developments in glazing with incorporated LED lighting and, of course, 3D printing with concrete. We have a vast programme of innovations!