An instant snapshot of innovation

Innovation projects large and small are dotted across National Grid’s business. But until now, it’s been hard to track all our innovation efforts in a coordinated way so we have a clear picture of the value they bring.

That’s changed, thanks to the creation of an innovation reporting dashboard that provides an instant snapshot of the innovation activities that are helping to transform the way we do things.

One of the biggest challenges is how we currently report on innovation. Activities are spread across the UK, the US, National Grid Ventures and some corporate functions. All report via their respective business units. So how can we make these efforts more visible?

In October 2019, National Grid Partners set up a three-strong Innovation Reporting team to take a fresh approach. The all-female team had diverse backgrounds, thinking and experience. With three nationalities – Taiwanese, Indian and British – represented, they brought combined expertise in finance, consulting, and operations to the project.

Their work was informed by three simple questions to help us better prioritize innovation. How much are we investing? Which regions and categories are we investing in? And what value is being created by the innovation efforts?

The team engaged with more than 100 stakeholders to identify projects in various stages of development, ranging from the earliest ‘ideation’ to implementation. The work identified a total of 399 innovation activities companywide. This marks the first time all our innovation efforts have been quantified across all regions and functions using the same criteria.

The reporting included examples such as our work in both the UK and US with startup Smart Wires. Its technology will allow us to unlock spare capacity on the system – reducing congestion, saving customers money, and connecting renewable generation more quickly.

Another example was the FutureGrid project, which includes a ground-breaking offline hydrogen test facility in the UK. FutureGrid will test network assets with flows of hydrogen blends of between 20 percent and 100 percent at transmission pressures for the first time.

The new approach to innovation will provide six-monthly updates. The team’s early work identified common themes across the regions while exploring how value affects the bottom line. The report also looked at the impact of projects on areas such as business unit strategy and the Responsible Business Charter.

Innovation Reporting Director Elaine Lin commented: “Our main aim is to provide insights to the Group Executive. Having one view of our Innovation portfolio will improve our decision-making, foster collaboration and ultimately boost our organizational capability, all while maximizing value for the group. This is a great way to monitor the ‘heartbeat’ of Innovation at National Grid.”