On Innovation, as a necessity to survive through and thrive beyond the pandemic

On Innovation, as a necessity to survive through and thrive beyond the pandemic

With Ragnar Agnell, of Centigo, and Peter Nilsson, of SAAB

Ragnar Agnell is a Senior Adviser, Founder and Director of Centigo UK which is a pioneer in network based leadership. Ragnar has a consultancy background with Accenture but has also experience with telecom and technology.

Peter Nilsson offers his expertise on innovation which has famously been built into SAAB’s organisational DNA and will also be discussing how they have overcome hurdles during the pandemic. As the Vice-President, Head of Future Programmes at SAAB Technologies UK, with 20 years’ experience in the SRAF, we are able to gain insight into succeeding in business.


  • Sweden (2) and the UK (4) are both ranked in the top 5 most innovative countries

  • Innovation capability is key to staying on top during increasing global competition

  • Innovative ideas must be followed through and generate value

15 years ago the life span of a listed company was around 60 years- whereas, today it is between 15-20 years. This is due to the pace of change accelerating because of the new breed of organisations on the rise which are more agile and innovation driven.

Co-creation, coopetition and collaboration are also more popular now. Furthermore, platform companies (e.g. Airbnb) facilitate and host innovation- with widespread success

“Frugal innovation” has been a necessity for many firms to survive- to shift product/services and adapt ways of working to the modern climate.

For strategic innovation, the pandemic has caused significant disruption and impact:

  • Cost cutting

  • Communication and coordination

  • Collaboration and creativity

Productivity is up. Innovation is slowing down.” –Wharton School, Nov 2020

Key Factors and Characteristics of Leading Organisations:

  • Agile (Higher pace of change and is responsive to unforeseen changes)

  • Entrepreneurship (Leadership, culture, values and distributed decision making)

  • Collaboration, co-creation, coopetition (Trust, digital collaboration skills and organising)

  • Digital capabilities (Collaboration platforms, digitalisation of products and services)

Outlook for 2021

  • Sustainability, with and without government funding

  • Continued digital transformation

  • Innovation hubs and communities

Innovation at SAAB

The annual R&D spend at SAAB (share of sales %) is approximately 22%. Whereas, the equivalent business in the UK would be around 10% and Boeing sit at around 1-2%.

SAAB work with their values, attitudes and behaviours to bring out people’s innovative sides and let their talents shine. Innovation can be learnt, developed and managed.

The firm has 5 Innovation Labs (including London), an Innovation Greenhouse (using employees with insights), and benefits from Start-up Collaborations as an external focus prepares the company for the future.

SAAB Ventures is the group’s corporate venture arm which leverages the firm’s abundant engineering expertise to form independent companies.

International Partnerships at SAAB

As a global business we focus upon working with domestic partners. SAAB work with industries, companies and academia in markets around the world to pursue inspiration that leads to profitable innovations.

SAAB have 500 British companies in the supply chain

The ‘Future Combat Air System’ has been labelled of Europe’s largest innovation programmes for the next 30 years and will involve the development of future combat aircraft. However, development of the relevant technologies (as the aircraft will not be built for 20 years) requires futuristic levels of innovation. Historically: many defence innovations have trickled down into civilian life.

The latest global generation of engineers demand a new kind of leadership which digitalisation is opening up.

Our thanks go to Ragnar Agnell, of Centigo, and Peter Nilsson, of SAAB, for hosting this event with the BSCC.

To re-watch this event, click here.

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