Iprova’s AI-driven innovation at heart of new BIC lab
BIC, the global stationery, lighters, and shavers brand, has partnered with technology company Iprova to launch the BIC-Iprova Invention Lab. ‘’ “”
Iprova, which has its UK base in the Bradfield Centre, has developed a machine learning-based, data-driven approach to invention.
The two companies – BIC has its headquarters in Clichy, on the outskirts of Paris, Iprova’s is in Lausanne – began working together in January 2019. Two successful pilot projects focused on enhancing consumer benefits in BIC’s stationery and shaver product categories.
“We’ve been collaborating for two years now,” says Thomas Brette, BIC’s group insights and innovation officer. “And now the next level is to integrate the Iprova ecosystem and tools into the BIC programme.”
The Lab is based at BIC’s facility near Athens, which has a staff of 150, mainly researchers.
“The Lab has been running for two weeks,” says Thomas. “The first focus is not a specific invention: there are three directions which the Lab is working on. The first is to support the creativity of the consumer operation, second is improving the control and shape of the shaver ranges, and thirdly it’s supporting and digitalising the information and working practices.
“It’s a long-term contract, we’ve agreed to review the outcomes every year and put adjustments in place where needed. Some Iprova staff will move to Greece and some from BIC will relocate to Lausanne.
“We’ve been using artificial intelligence for years, it’s part of Factory 4.0, it’s at the forefront of the data we use to understand the consumer, but this is a first – putting AI at the very first stages of the innovation process.”
Iprova’s CEO Julian Nolan is likewise delighted BIC has taken the company’s AI invention platform in-house.
“It is a privilege to partner with BIC, a company that continues to make products with a creative elegance and user value which is rarely matched,” says Julian. “We look forward to further integrating Iprova’s transformative technology into the new invention lab and helping to strengthen BIC’s innovation process.
“Covid-19 has driven a huge need to innovate – big changes happening means big opportunities to innovate. Companies are increasingly relying on data and science to deliver this.
“BIC is building a team around Iprova’s technology platform – we provide support to the BIC team, helping them to create inventions.
“Last year we provided around 40 inventions for BIC, they then said to us ‘Hey we want to open our own innovation lab’ and that instigatedus to help them set up their lab for timely and disruptive innovations.
“It’s not just providing the tools but also a way of integrating invention within the R&D department, and then materialising the outcome through prototypes.
“The Lab will be able to create very disruptive, value-accruing inventions for consumers, and these next-generation products will create a lot of value for BIC.”
Iprova moved its team into the Bradfield Centre a year ago.
“We’re very happy at the Bradfield,” says Julian. “It’s a good location, and very practical for us. It’s a good ecosystem.”