Pink Innov’: Interview Mehdi Nafe “Sustainable innovation, a decade to act”

Pink Innov’ is a network of women and men who want to bring innovation to life by facilitating its concrete application in organizations. Their actions: to keep a constant watch on current events, to contribute their thoughts, to encourage exchanges and to organize workshops, feedback and discovery conferences to put innovation at the heart of the debate.

In a white paper, they have decided to gather 75 testimonies from SME / ETI / start-up managers, academics and organizations, and large groups, all of whom have expressed their views and shared their vision of responsible innovation.

Discover the testimony of Mehdi Nafe, CEO of Novelis:

“After 15 years working in digital and technology, I made the choice to become an entrepreneur in 2017 by founding Novelis, a hybrid structure halfway between a research-based start-up and a specialized consulting firm. I have always been
inspired by innovative and responsible societal practices and my desire in creating
Novelis was to have a sustainable footprint on the societies in which we operate.
The notion of sustainability is essential, as it is one of the keys to responsible
innovation. When Novelis was created, all the partners worked at length on the
founding values of the company and the mission we wanted to give ourselves.

Our first ambition was to have a tangible impact on innovation processes and to
make technologies accessible to all organizations, regardless of their size. This is
why we have created a Research & Development laboratory, in which we invest a
quarter of our revenues. I am convinced that Artificial Intelligence is still in its
infancy and that, in the years to come, this technology will profoundly transform the
way we live and work and will have the capacity to impact the daily lives of people.
The latest advances in medicine give us a brief glimpse of its potential. However,
ethics must remain a point of vigilance in the uses to avoid any drift.

If I were to define responsible innovation, it would be a process by which any
innovation, whatever its state of progress, is analyzed in terms of environmental
sustainability, ethics and relevance from a societal point of view. Through our
expertise in new technologies, we strive to accompany our clients and evolve in this
direction. Automation, for example, is a tool that allows us to simplify information
systems, thereby reducing the hosting infrastructure and the associated carbon
footprint. By coupling this with a rationalization and urbanization approach, it is
possible to optimize digital infrastructures, by making them custom-made, thanks in
particular to the new modular architectures – microservices – capable of
automatically managing their scalability. These are all favorable factors in view of
the inevitable ecological transition that is coming. On a daily basis, we are
developing innovative solutions that are faster to implement and therefore less
resource and energy intensive, both for Novelis and for our customers

But our footprint should not be limited to the scope of our expertise and we want to
go further in the societal actions that could be implemented by Novelis and its
employees. We have set up a dedicated working group which is currently studying
several causes and mechanisms in which Novelis could provide long-term
assistance. The goal is to come up with a concrete, sustainable action plan in a few
weeks, with an associated budget, so that we can start implementing a real aid
program this year. Sponsorship can be financial but we do not want it to be limited
to that. We want to include every employee who wants to participate in this program
by offering them a range of impact actions to get involved in, depending on their
sensitivity to these issues. Each of us can, at our own level, make a contribution and
help our fellow man. Our employees were immediately enthusiastic about this
initiative and saw the value and new meaning it could bring to their daily lives. The
collective is one of our founding values that each employee shares, but this word
only finds true meaning when it can extend beyond the company and be associated
with the world around it.

I am convinced that the success of a company is not measured solely by the
conquest of new markets or by its profits, but by its ability to work for the common
good when it has the means and the capacity to do so. We are at a turning point in
our civilization and it is incumbent on all leaders to take their responsibilities to
move the world forward and create a more just, innovative, inclusive and
sustainable society.”

Novelis : R&D at the Service of an Innovative Digital Transformation

Meet  Mehdi NAFE , CEO & Co-Founder of Novelis, the startup that supports companies for a digital transformation at the cutting edge of new technologies. The secret ? R&D, R&I (Research and Innovation) and above all, team spirit!

Mehdi, tell us about yourself and your journey …

I had the “classic” path in engineering school (ENSEIRB-MATMECA, in Bordeaux). My interests are mainly in the fields of telecommunications and software engineering; in which I specialize. I worked with companies like CGI ,  GFI , and SQLI in delivery management and digital transformation consultancy. I learned a lot, discovered various ecosystems, and realized that human qualities are as important as technical or operational qualities, they actually make the difference.

Why entrepreneurship? What was your click?

I have a lot of admiration and respect for those who take risks, those who are daring, that has always inspired me. So I’ve always had entrepreneurship in mind. I like to create, innovate, and bring added value. What pushed me to move on to the concrete was the technological acceleration that I noticed around me. Some companies that I have encountered during my career path did not anticipate the deep technological transformation that we are experiencing. I wanted to be part of the development of a structure capable of doing so, and of supporting our clients in this new adventure.

Tell us more about Novelis.

We combine two essential aspects, more and more inseparable : Research and Development, as well as the world of Services. The idea through  Novelis is to support companies in their digital transformation and allow them to work more efficiently. This is why we invest heavily in R&D and R&I, to participate in the development of technological tools, master them to create the most innovative capabilities available to our customers, and provide them with the most efficient solutions. We have our own R&D Laboratory and work a lot on AI-oriented subjects, more specifically on NLP * (Natural Language Processing).

Other themes that also interest us : connected objects, virtual reality, Blockchain, etc. All the subjects that are at the heart of tomorrow’s challenges for businesses, and in which we wish to invest.

* NLP is a multidisciplinary field which involves : linguistics, IT and AI. The objective is to create tools for processing natural language, for different applications. Not to be confused with computer linguistics, the aim of which is to understand languages ​​using computer tools.

And why digital?

It was obvious to me, I have been involved in it my whole career, and it is through this area that we can bring added value. In particular thanks to R&D, which is a necessity in order to be relevant, and effectively support our customers on very specific issues. We accumulate technological and scientific knowledge over time, and that’s what makes us more competent and different.

What has been the biggest success for Novelis so far?

As a small company, we have to prove ourselves and double our efforts to win markets and work with our clientel over time. Winning their trust, and convincing them with our skills, is our greatest pride. It remains a constant challenge and each success is a collective victory.

Any particular difficulties?

Managing temporality is a major difficulty in the life of the company. You have to be patient, sow seeds, and wait for the results to come in later. We must have a well-established plan, be able to repeat efforts, persevere, and have a spirit of innovation that allows us to find solutions to move forward. During which teamwork is a real strength, because it helps maintain this consistency.

What is the secret of team cohesion?

Team spirit is a particularly important point. Teamwork must be at the heart of the business. I have observed in my career too much damage from individualism. You have to think about your teammates, help each other and show solidarity in all circumstances. The best way to achieve individual goals is to achieve them through collective goals.

The next steps for the startup?

Novelis is 18 months old, we already have around fifty employees. It’s a fairly significant progression. Our objective is to strengthen ourselves, by doubling the number of employees at the end of 2020. We will do this by consolidating our presence with our major customers and by seeking new markets within our industry. We also want to provide new offers, and be able to support our customers on new themes and issues. We want to make Novelis a benchmark in the field of innovative technologies, and through our company help those who wish to implement their ideas and make it them happen for them by providing the necessary resources.

What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

“It’s too dangerous, it won’t work, you shouldn’t get into it.” It’s the worst when people push you to stay in your comfort zone. If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, it would be to not wait to get started and just go for it.

How would you rate your experience in the X-TECH Booster program at the X Innovation Center?

In short, excellence. We share the same values ​​conveyed by Ecole Polytechnique and their innovation centre : persistence, because it is essential to improve on a daily basis, and humility. X-TECH Booster is also a means of creating relations with other program members with laboratories. We live this with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of pride.

One last word ?

“If you think the adventure is dangerous, try routine … It is deadly! “

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