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What does innovation mean to your company and how does it impact your business strategy?

Valeo’s ambition is to bring the most innovative technologies into the cars that are driven every day by hundreds of millions of people. One definition perfectly describes our approach: innovation as an invention that has found a market. Land transportation accounts for a quarter of total emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and public authorities have set stringent regulations for the coming years for fuel consumption and CO2 emissions reduction. These regulations require innovation from all sectors of the automotive industry. This is the primary focus of Valeo’s innovation strategy.

Mobility is also a key societal value, especially in megacities where half of the total population is concentrated. Everyone expects more connected and autonomous cars, with a simpler man to machine interface. Driving assistance features will reinforce safety and reduce CO2 emissions, through optimized “eco-driving”, while improving the driving experience: this is the new concept of “Intuitive Driving” that Valeo has developed.

This strategy is based on a strong R&D effort, representing close to 10% of our original equipment sales, and through a truly global presence in terms of R&D, to be close to our different markets and customers. Our R&D effort is more and more localized in Asia and emerging markets to sustain our growth in these strategic markets.

How do you encourage and instill a culture of innovation within your organization?

Valeo has a strong culture of innovation that was instilled from day one, when the company was founded exactly 90 years ago to manufacture facings for clutches in France. And today, "Constant Innovation" is one of the 5 Axes that serve as the foundation of our operating culture, applied by all employees on a daily basis.

To encourage innovation among our engineers, we introduced a specific career path that rewards the most brilliant Engineers: “Valeo Experts”. The “Expert” title is challenging to obtain, and to keep: the Expert needs to constantly show evidence of inventiveness, but also coaching, training and communication skills.

The top management is deeply involved in the innovation process, in particular through our "Technology Development Plan" process, which defines every year the company roadmaps for every product line on a 10-year horizon. R&D, Marketing, Business Development, Operations and General Management work together to set a shared vision of Valeo’s future and give a framework for future operational decisions.

This innovation culture is further encouraged by our successes. Our customers recognize our capacity to innovate and entrust us more and more with the development of new technologies and with new orders. In three years, our orders have risen dramatically. We have broken every year our record level of order intake: in 2010, in 2011, and it will be the case again in 2012. 30% of our orders are fueled by new products.

In a world that is more and more open, we promote an innovation of the widest possible scope, including partnerships with public research bodies, academic organizations, customers, and suppliers.

What is it like to lead one of the world's top 100 most innovative companies?

I am proud to see that our efforts are recognized by our customers, by the public and by experts in innovation, like Thomson-Reuters. All of our employees, all around the world, feel a sense of pride when they see cars in the streets with innovative Valeo technology inside, be it Stop/Start, full LED headlamps, automated parking,…and tomorrow affordable hybrid systems or the first electric supercharger.

What do you consider to be your most innovative assets?

Valeo files more than 600 patents every year, which makes us one of the top patent filers in France. As reflected in the Thomson-Reuters ranking, our patent portfolio is very strong and represents a very important asset. But our people are definitely our most valuable asset. Nearly 8,000 people currently work in our Research and Development department worldwide. And we intend to recruit 1,000 engineers every year through 2015, on all continents. This truly global network enables us to address every specific need and choose the best of every culture.

Figures are important, but, at the end of the day, what counts is that every single Valeo engineer feels in charge of "his" or “her” product!