The race to innovate has never been so intense. As the energy challenges of tomorrow mount, the key to success is to adopt new working practices made popular by start-up companies and become more agile and responsive to dramatically changing market needs.
The Digital Products team has been front and centre in this movement within CLP, setting up the CLP Innovation Hub, a new 3,000 square feet office in Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP) where creativity flourishes and the start-up spirit has been enthusiastically embraced.
“We designed the space to be an open and collaborative environment,” explains Pubudu Abayasiri, Associate Director – Digital Products, who oversaw the move and created an office where no one has a permanent desk and team members simply plug in their laptops in the most convenient spot.
“The set-up encourages interaction, allowing colleagues working on the same project to group together and any customer or partner invited in to simply find a space and join the creative process,” explains Di Lu, Assistant Manager – Innovation.
Under Pubudu – known as Pubs to his colleagues – the team has grown to 15 members and includes application developers, cloud-computing architects, data scientists, product managers, and electrical engineers.
Through in-house development or third-party partnerships, the team offers software applications to help customers manage and optimise their energy usage to support CLP’s business goals. For instance, they are currently building an app to allow Feed-in-Tariff customers to monitor their grid-connected renewable energy systems from their smartphones.
The CLP Innovation Hub features solar panels, battery storage systems, wireless-charging units, and an array of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that track ambient conditions including temperature, light and carbon dioxide levels, creating a laboratory-type environment suitable for testing and customer demonstrations.
It also has other features of start-up company offices such as glass-partitioned meeting rooms, standing café tables and corner couches. The environment is conducive to faster problem-solving and the brainstorming of new ideas.
“Everyone in the team is really excited about working here,” says Carlie Lam, Associate - Innovation. After joining CLP following graduation in 2017, Carlie has been given responsibilities to help manage the setting up of the CLP Innovation Hub office.
Team members scribble down ideas and draw flow charts using colour markers on glass partitions in CLP Innovation Hub’s meeting rooms, making project discussions more visual and engaging. The emphasis is on face-to-face communication rather than waiting impassively in front of a screen for email exchanges.
The Digital Products team has adopted the ‘Scrum’ project management methodology favoured by start-up companies who need to work fast and keep projects on track, staying on top of sudden changes in customer requirements and market needs.
The team routinely completes projects in intense two-week cycles, aiming to deliver results for customers quickly and capture opportunities in the rapidly-growing market for energy management solutions.
“The team is not afraid of asking the question ‘Why not?’ and this culture is important to drive innovation,” says Pubs. “We are trying to create something new and meaningful, rather than just making incremental improvements. Creating new products requires a combination of discovery, creativity, courage, and technical capabilities.”
Pubs, an Australian who previously worked in information technology roles after joining CLP in Hong Kong in 2011, is excited about his new responsibility and has been encouraged by the support of senior management, who have been highly impressed after visiting the CLP Innovation Hub.
“CLP has been providing energy reliably for more than 100 years, but we have also got fantastic expertise in telling customers how best to use energy,” says Austin Bryan, Senior Director - Innovation. “Having the CLP Innovation Hub helps us in our customer collaboration, develop and test new solutions, and leverage the amazing ecosystem at HKSTP. This is a tremendous story about a new CLP that is emerging to provide innovative solutions and create more value for customers.”