Fueling HEINEKEN’s Innovation Roadmap

Information is the new gold and AI technology is the key to unlock its potential. HEINEKEN’s Global Innovation & Research team partnered with EdgeLeap to get ahead in using the latest information mining technology to propel their innovation strategy. This is their story. 

Producing best quality products that consumers will keep on loving: From new technologies to enhanced consumer experience, HEINEKEN’s commitment to ongoing innovation is one of the company’s priorities. With operations in over 70 markets worldwide, HEINEKEN is a leader in the brewing industry. To maintain its competitive edge, the company needs to keep on moving ahead, seizing emerging opportunities and anticipating to needs of consumers that are yet to come.

Rolling Innovation

HEINEKEN’s Innovation and Research team has the task of knowing what is the “next big thing”. The technology scouts are continuously on the lookout for (hints of) newest technologies, consumer trends and inventions. They are the first to kindle the innovation process, but who – or what – is fueling their pool of ideas?

“Traditional technology scouting reflect only a single-moment snapshot of the world. We started questioning whether we could do this better.”

Hendrik van Es, Lead Scout HEINEKEN Global Innovation & Research outlines the process leading to technology innovation: “Traditionally, we rely on rather scattered individual initiatives and networks for keeping tuned to external developments, drawing information from a multitude of sources, ranging from news-sites, databases and conferences. The information is collected, filtered, analysed, and interpreted before it is taken further to the next step of the innovation pipeline. This is a laborious process and we have little evidence that we are covering tech developments truly globally and prompt. In more strategically driven challenges, consulting firms are used to analyse the innovation landscape within a targeted tech domain. The findings, while being valuable, reflect only a snapshot of the world in an isolated time period. We started questioning whether we could do this better.”

Moving Forward

Today’s world is being infused with information 24/7, making the classical way of searching for information per definition lagging behind. Another concern is the possible bias: the slices of information a person selects manually is subjective, as relevance is perceived through a prism of own expertise and experiences.

Hendrik explains: “We wanted to be confident that our strategic decisions are backed by timely and full awareness of the movements in the outer world. Are we sure that we are not missing out? Can we earlier anticipate on developments in today’s fast-paced world? How do we avoid “mental bias” of a person who collects the information? This triggered us to look for a solution that would enable a more wide-ranging and data-based process, one that would bring information to our people 24/7 – before even having to actively search for it. In our daily tasks, time for staying up to date with new developments is limited, while the need for incoming information is ever-growing. We felt that if we could intelligently capture these information streams, the confidence and authority of our decision making process would improve and we would gain a continuous source of intelligence to fuel our innovations.”

The HEINEKEN story is not an isolated case. In fact, many of EdgeLeap’s clients struggled with challenges that would benefit from more effective monitoring, landscaping, and mining of the world’s information. Recognizing the opportunity in this challenge, EdgeLeap developed EdgeFlow: a platform for efficient, real-time information mining, featuring AI that is trained to fit the client’s business focus.

Marijana Radonjic, co-founder and CEO of EdgeLeap introduces the platform: “EdgeFlow blends stream processing technology with machine learning models that sift in real-time through heaps of information and return relevant bits to the user. The platform is tailored to fit the client’s business focus: information sources can be selected by the client, and machine learning models are continuously trained to learn the domain language of the business. This is well in line with EdgeLeap’s “craft solutions” vision, combining flexibility and modular design with a solid, scalable technology basis.”

Teaming up

The seamless fit between HEINEKEN’s challenge and EdgeLeap’s technology launched the partnership between the two companies. Hendrik describes how EdgeFlow works for their needs: “At HEINEKEN, we used EdgeFlow to build a 24/7 scouting robot, trained to recognize relevant information for each of our technology platforms and becoming smarter the more we use it. To get there, we went through hands-on model training sessions with the EdgeLeap team where we “taught” the algorithm what matters to us. Not only the algorithm got smarter – it was also a useful experience for our team, an eye opener and a chance to actively reflect on our thinking and decision making process and a way we collaborate. This was a very useful part of the implementation process that turned quite a few sceptics into enthusiasts.”

“We used EdgeFlow to build a 24/7 scouting robot, trained to recognize relevant information and becoming smarter the more we use it.”

The task of HEINEKEN’s scouting robot is to continuously fuel their Innovation & Research programs. Incoming information is shared with dedicated teams in form of e-mail alerts, while domain-specific trends can be explored via an interactive dashboard. In this way, the Innovation team now has a single point of access for all their relevant information sources. Staying up to date is now feasible and has become a part of their morning work routine.

Petra Hissink, Director Global Innovation & Research at HEINEKEN, illustrates the value of the scouting robot for the business: “We now have more confidence that we are up to date and not missing out on potentially critical information. Within weeks of using the scouting robot we already became aware of relevant product launches and patents that we might have missed otherwise. Having this information as soon as it appeared in public helped us to act quickly and alert colleagues from other divisions to take action. A fast response time has a huge impact for organization of HEINEKEN’s profile. Moreover, scouting robot brings us new ideas from the outer world, expanding our awareness beyond the current scope. This is essential for the front end of an innovation process, allowing us to act proactively on the emerging trends.”

“We now have more confidence that we are up to date and not missing out on potentially critical information.”

The new way of scouting for information also has an impact on the team itself. Petra stresses: “The incoming information forms the basis for a “collective mind” of our team, stimulating cross-functional exchange of ideas and creativity. This strengthens synergy and teamwork”.

Fit for Future

The partnership between EdgeLeap and Heineken is only at its beginning. The two companies have ambitious vision for their future collaboration. Petra outlines the plans: “We are excited to seize the opportunity to expand the platform applications to other business units, and other areas such as consumer insights. We will also explore if can connect to internal data-points as information source.”

Hendrik concludes: “In a fast-paced world of today, traditional ways of handling information just don’t cut it anymore. The world is rapidly changing and we need to monitor closely, respond fast and keep leading on our core.”

Contact us

Interested in hearing more about EdgeFlow implementation for HEINEKEN? Let us know!

Hendrik van Es, HEINEKEN Global Innovation & Research hendrik.vanes@heineken.com

Marijana Radonjic, CEO EdgeLeap marijana@edgeleap.com