Opening the door to innovation
3M has opened a new Customer Information Centre at its UK headquarters in Bracknell. Prior to its official opening by the well-known physicist, Professor Brian Cox, 3M held a press reception to which the editors of key trade publications were invited for a sneak preview. Mike Connolly reports.
3M has invested more than £2 million in the centre which is said to be the most advanced of the company’s 46 innovation centres worldwide. Managing Director, Paul Keel commented: “This investment has delivered an innovation centre that is seven times larger than the previous one in the UK. It provides a brilliant opportunity to share the 3M story of innovation and collaboration with our customers and business partners and to provide solutions for the future.”
3M’s reputation for and pursuit of highly innovative products that touch virtually every aspect of modern area life has led to the development of more than 55,000 disparate products. To ensure that this culture of innovation continues, the company has been set a target of securing 40 percent of its sales from products that did not exist five years ago.
In addition to providing a source of information and collaboration for its many customers, the centre will also enable local school children to visit and learn more about the application of the various technologies demonstrated to encourage science-based careers. This is an aspiration that both Professor Cox and 3M feel passionately about and one that must be fostered for future generations. In particular, 3M is a strong and active supporter of UK government initiatives to achieve this objective. Professor Cox commented: “It is now widely appreciated that getting more STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) students into our universities is vital to the UK economy and there is no doubt that industry has a very important role to play in helping to encourage them. Being able to bring science to life by demonstrating how technology can change lives for the better has got to be a great inducement for young people to want to be part of that.”
As well as the main innovation area, the centre incorporates workshops and a number of breakout areas that offer flexible meeting spaces for 3M collaboration with its customers and business partners. The customer experience begins at the 3M collaboration lounge, a customer reception space and creative zone where 3M staff can meet informally to collaborate with customers. From here, the customer is taken on a tour through 3M innovation and invention within the multiple market sectors in which it operates, using a series of state-of-the-art interactive displays as well as workshops that provide customers with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the product/s and technologies of their choice.
Included in the various spaces of innovation are those specific to the sign and graphics and digital printing sectors,, allowing an insight into the many 3M branding and advertising solutions available. These cover vehicle wrapping, and commercial fleet livery, illuminated signs, architectural and interior design solutions, rail industry solutions and floor and window graphics as well as energy-efficient lighting and light management systems.
At the 3M Customer Innovation Centre, customers and business partners can see demonstrations of a range of 3M graphic films through special displays. These include a Dichroic Glass Cube demonstrating a new colour-shift decorative film for the architectural market, an Air Cube showcasing next-generation lighting and DI-NOC Architectural Surface Finishes for interior building decoration. In addition, customers can climb aboard 3M’s very own on-site train carriage sporting the very latest interior and exterior rail-compliant graphics and wrapping films.
On the impact the new centre will have on the commercial graphics market in particular, Richard Davies, Trade Marketing Manager, 3M Commercial Graphics Division, commented: “The new centre is a sensory delight offering a real insight into 3M’s collaborative spirit of innovation, which has led to the development of such a vast range of products during the past 100 years. Customers can discover how 3M provides ingenious solutions to customer challenges in so many diverse markets. For sign and graphics businesses, it is reassuring to be able to understand the history of 3M and the scientific engineering behind the 3M Commercial Graphics’ range of products that they use on a daily basis.”
To arrange a visit to the 3M Customer Innovation Centre, visit www.3M.co.uk/cic