Enhancing Innovation: How Helping Startups Has Made Ecolab a Better Company

Techstars: Ecolab CEO Doug Baker and Cargill CEO David MacLennan present in 2019.

Ecolab CEO Doug Baker and Cargill CEO David MacLennan present the 2019 Techstars class. 

Much of our approach to solving problems for our customers can be summed up in a word: innovation.

Our ability to innovate is essential for overcoming the enormous and constantly evolving challenges we face around public health, the preservation of natural resources and the rapid clip of technology advancement. When it comes to innovating, diversity in experiences and perspectives are a great asset.

True innovation requires getting out of your comfort zone in the search for new and better ideas. It demands constant learning as well as challenging ourselves to find breakthrough solutions to longstanding challenges or disrupting paradigms to introduce new possibilities.

I’m proud to be part of a company that emphasizes helping our customers find the best ways to overcome their challenges and better serve their customers. Our relentless commitment to help our customers achieve the best outcomes at the lowest total cost to their operations, while also making the world a better place, separates us and helps us build longstanding partnerships. One of the ways I get to be on the front lines of our innovation effort is through our support of the Techstars Farm-to-Fork Accelerator program.

We just completed our third year of the program; it was a completely virtual experience, spanning five continents. Ecolab leaders mentored early-stage entrepreneurs seeking an opportunity to effect positive change across the food system. This includes water management, food security and safety, agriculture technology, and supply chain management. This year, some of the program’s core themes were robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, quality control, compliance and employee safety.


Why it matters

As our Chairman and CEO Doug Baker mentioned earlier this year in a conversation with Techstars Managing Director Brett Brohl, the only way we can help companies deliver safer food and environments is to create safer work habits. Technology and digital innovation play a key role here. More and more, companies are relying on us for solutions such as digital monitoring and measurement of safety protocols. And we’re using data to pinpoint how to help operations enhance efficiency, productivity and sustainability.

The immediate needs, especially in the face of a global pandemic, are tremendous, and the opportunities are significant. But we have much to learn, and the 11 startups participating in this year’s Farm-to-Fork program showcased the value of new perspectives.

Our work accelerating startups in the program allows our leaders to work closely with entrepreneurs who are working on disruptive concepts and offerings in spaces where we work –or adjacent to them. This creates two-way learning opportunities, enables us to see around corners to anticipate future trends and opportunities and enables us to be more courageous in taking risks.

Our work with the Techstars program has led to extended collaborations. For example, one of last year’s program participants, Tel Aviv-based EcoPlant has begun a pilot program in some of our plants. EcoPlant connects air compressors’ controllers and pipeline sensors to continuously monitor, control and optimize an entire plant’s system, which helps significantly reduce energy waste, optimize maintenance and increase financial savings.

The initial pilot has already delivered impressive savings, and we’re continuing to look for opportunities to work together.


What’s next

Heading into 2021 and beyond, our emphasis on innovation and digital solutions will remain critical as we work to help our customers meet global challenges and uncover new opportunities.

We’ll need to keep applying our technical expertise to anticipate and proactively address issues to help our customers grow and improve. We’ll continue to glean actionable insights and find new ways to push our talented teams to innovate in our changing world. And with our connection to the creative and diverse innovation in the Techstars program, there’s no better time to tackle our world’s food and water system challenges for the next generation and beyond.

About the Author

Portrait of John Guttery, Ecolab.

John Guttery

Senior Vice President, Enterprise Initiatives

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