Developing an innovation growth platform – Lonza

Most companies reach a point where their ability to generate growth falls well short of the rates expected by the board and CEO, and demanded by investors. Visionary companies like Lonza anticipate this and set up projects to identify and implement growth platforms well before market conditions dictate.

Developing an innovation growth platform

The issue
Possibilities for forming new growth platforms can arise when forces of change such as new or converging technologies, changing regulatory environments, or social pressures create the opportunity to satisfy some unmet or latent customer need. However, if a company waits for such a situation to occur it can often be too late to seize the opportunity.

There is an alternative, innovative companies like the global life sciences company, Lonza choose to set up projects to identify and implement growth platforms.

Lonza’s strategy

When these companies identify a potential new growth platform, they assemble a portfolio of capabilities, business processes, systems, and assets that are required to deliver the new business.  Most importantly, they ensure that they have an aligned, and well-trained team that is given time and space to implement the platforms in an effective manner.

Dr Allison Haitz, VP of Global Innovation at Lonza says:

“We have explored a number focus areas so as to identify potential growth platforms for the future.

“This has established clear areas that lend themselves to ambitious innovation portfolios exploiting Lonza’s strengths and strategic intent.

“This was executed so as to connect Lonza both internally across different business units/time zones and externally to world experts and both have been a rich source of innovation.”

Nu Angle’s approach

In the first part of 2011, nu Angle worked with Lonza on the design and delivery of four growth platform workshops – each with the aim of identifying major growth for the company.

Before a growth platform can be defined it is necessary to create a detailed understanding of a list of ‘strategic opportunity spaces’ – sometimes called ‘Opportunity Domains’ – where growth platforms might exist and that a company can practically exploit. With this in place it is possible to identify the growth platforms and develop plans to deliver them.

The process

The workshops were held in Europe and approximately 30-40 internal participants from around the world attended each workshop.

Careful design and preparation ahead of the workshops led to highly successful events that in turn have created a number of concrete growth programs for Lonza.

This involved:-

Developing a clear understanding of the opportunity spaces areas 

This was crucial.  Without this, confusion and lack of focus in the innovation team could be a problem. The innovation team articulated an area in terms of; what’s in, out, or what may be relevant given specific conditions.  The debate and clarity this activity generated were very important to the rest of the program

Creation of structured maps

These opportunity spaces were broad and, at first glance, highly complex. We developed structured maps of these spaces, identifying broad opportunities that were then broken down into further detail. This structured analysis provided concrete information for workshop participants to build into practical growth programmes.

Obtaining quality external insights and extra depth

No matter how well-qualified the internal participants are, without an external world view internal self-justification and blind-sidedness can easily occur.  It is also very easy to miss big opportunities or large disrupters.

We identified and contacted global experts with the aim of finding the experience and breadth to add depth, new insights at the workshops.  During this activity we were also able to find many new experts and challenges to past opinions.  About 20 experts were located per opportunity space that would also be useful during any later implementation phase

Highly effective workshop design 

We needed participants to understand the area prior to the sessions and also feel part of the workshop outputs. Too many such sessions workshops, brainstorms or ideation sessions we see lack real preparation and thought about outcomes required.  The result tends to be many disparate ideas with little back up content, no accountability and no actionability.

Too many workshops fail to generate implementable innovations.  As a rule of thumb a 3 day workshop requires about 20 days of intense preparation and homework.  Due to the amount of work required workshops were staggered by two months to allow for preparation and workshop output assessment and consolidation

Joint working with client team

To cover the breadth required (content, opportunity description etc.) each of the 4 events lasted for three days. Joint working Lonza’s Innovations team was crucial in order to incorporate internal perspective and to obtain internal views

Detailed market, technology and regulatory content was provided in the form of pre-reading, conference posters and external speaker briefings.  Each poster represented each branch of the mindmap created earlier (approx. 20 for each workshop).

At each event four nu Angle external facilitators were required for 30-40 attendees along with four Lonza team members.  The detailed content created for each workshop was also used in the implementation after the workshops.

Phased approach 

  • Divergent phase – the background reading, external speakers and the posters represented the content necessary to open up the space.
  • Convergent phase – the second part of the process focussed on specific growth programs and outline plans to deliver them. Structured and well-tried portfolio, strategy and action-planning tools were used to generate objective well-articulated plans backed up by market and technology data. The tools also enabled the large amount of data to be captured in the form of templates and these were used latter in the process.
  • Refinement  – the Lonza Innovation team carried out more work to identify synergies between workshop output areas thus creating ‘supercluster’ regions with broader growth platform propositions. These were presented to the Management Committee and Board of Directors.


The super-clusters were further refined, developed and validated culminating in the creation of a clear business proposal with an accompanying technology innovation portfolio. Several exciting areas for growth are now being implemented.