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New Member Spotlight: Avery Dennison

UIDP welcomes Avery Dennison as a new member organization. Avery Dennison is an international Fortune 500 manufacturer and distributor of adhesive materials, apparel labels, radio-frequency identification (RFID) inlays, and specialty medical products. UIDP spoke with Collin Moore, director, Strategic Innovation/Open Innovation Studio in the Global Research and Development division of Avery Dennison.

UIDP: What is Avery Dennison hoping to gain from this membership with UIDP in the coming year?  

Moore: Avery Dennison’s has two long-term innovation groups—one in engineering technologies, one in adhesives—and they do have strategic university engagement, but the rest of our university engagement is more ad hoc. We have a big push in sustainable packaging, and one of the things I hope we can do is engage UIDP so we can save a lot of time and find universities that are strategically looking at new and sustainable materials and sustainable packaging.

One of the problems in industry is that when you talk to packaging designers and you ask, how do you design your packages for sustainability, they will tell you “We don’t. We design them for function and then we look at sustainability.” I think universities are going to be driving that cutting edge of looking at sustainability first and then having to get that functionality.

UIDP: What are the current challenges that Avery Dennison is facing in the development of university-industry partnerships?  

Moore: We want to look at partnerships more strategically while still enabling and empowering the ad hoc research piece.  If I have people come to me and say that they’re looking for universities that may be able to help them in x, y, and z,  I’d like to be able to let my organization know that we can go through UIDP to help us get that kind of information.

Those are two of the challenges: Quickly identifying relationships when we have specific problems we need to solve and looking strategically at university-industry partnerships.

UIDP: Please share innovative ways that Avery Dennison is making an impact on U-I interactions.  

Moore: The way we’ve done it so far has been related to proximity. For example, Penn State is located near our adhesives team and they’ve collaborated a lot, largely from an analytical equipment point of view.

The adhesives community is relatively small, so we have some targeted interaction as well. My theory about this has always been using the right tool for the right job. So I’ve found universities in the UK that I’ve collaborated with to work on certain problems.

Now we have a couple of really good strategic collaborations that are very, very specific to our research group.  We’re starting to shift away from “what might a university give me” to “how might we collaborate on solving a problem and how might we partner on industry issues.” That’s the direction we’re going.

UIDP: Tell us about a particularly successful U-I project or partnership.

Moore: I’m all about solving the problem; I don’t care who has the answer, I just want to get it so we can drive customer value.

We had a problem with a brand-new technology we had launched that we got to market quickly with as much understanding as we believed was needed. With these things, as science progresses, you may find that you don’t understand as much as you thought you did.

In this case, we collaborated with a university that helped us get around to the structure, property, and performance on some water-based adhesive materials. We had a consensus on how they looked, but not the techniques to really dive into the actual structure, property, performance, and behavior of this material. By collaborating with a university we were able to find out that we were precisely wrong about how we were thinking about it, and that collaboration completely redirected our future strategy for modifying this technology.

In a nutshell, one of the great advantages of working with universities is getting an outside view on things for which internal or tribal wisdom, although a valuable tool for our team, doesn’t have all the answers. It also provided tools we didn’t have before. Through this collaboration, I was able to disseminate the techniques through all our groups, and now it’s something we use all the time. In fact, the current techniques blew that old technique out of the water in just a few years.

UIDP: What’s an odd/interesting fact about Avery Dennison that people may not know? Or share something that you wish people knew/understood about your organization relevant to your external collaborations?   

Every day, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are touched by a product, process, or experience developed by Avery Dennison

We’re a $7 billion company that pretty much created the pressure-sensitive label industry. Stan Avery in his garage, with a small loan, cranked out sticky labels for putting notes on things. In America, we represent a large share of the market for roll-to-roll sticky paper or film that gets converted into a label. It’s everything from labels to stick to products to tagless clothing labels to very high-tech products—for example, labels that need to survive being stuck to a barrel and dropped in the ocean. There are also labels designed to go onto conventional hard drives to make them run quieter because they absorb sound. We create graphics films of digitally printed materials; if you see a car or truck going down the street with a big cheeseburger on it, that’s a digitally printed material and it’s probably ours.

We’re also in the fashion industry. We have a $1.5 billion business in retail branding information solutions that does everything from variable information printers to being the world’s biggest manufacturing of RFID inlays that go onto retail products and send a little ping and allow retailers to do inventory. We are the world’s largest provider of a digital identity for consumer goods.

We have a small medical division that makes medical tapes and bandages and surgical draperies and a business in reflective materials. We have a new technology called Traffic Jet, a digitally-printed sign technology, and we have a small ink division that helps feed that. We are everywhere you look except in office supplies, the label division which we sold off a few years ago.