Innovation is BIG at Gemalto

Marc Gemeto is Business Innovation Director at Gemalto,  world leader in digital security, enabling its clients to offer trusted and convenient digital services to billions of individuals. He’s also POPWings founder (connected business card solution), an Innovation Passionate, and he has something BIG to share with us…


Gemalto has experienced terrific growth from the 80’s: organic growth, combined with merger of Gemplus and Axalto, have transform a company of a few dozen individuals to a multinational of 11 000 people, handling billions of transactions, and involved in highly secured operations such as biometric data management for passport.

At Gemalto, it was innovation without noticing, just like the air.

When a growth threshold was reached, the need for a more organized way of innovating came to the fore.

With 1 500 people in R&D, there shouldn’t be any trouble to innovate. But indeed there was: many creative ideas were presented, but new business had difficulty to emerge. Creativity was lacking structuration, and consequently could not attract funding.


Marc Gemeto was named to design an adequate incubation process called BIG.

BIG was shaped on bespoke design, moulding its own identity based on best practices leveraging collective intelligence. Its relentless innovation cycle is as follows:

  • Capturing creativity: working on ideation with Act One innovation methodology, and leveraging cross functional teams, crossing technology, usages, and marketing; involving consumers upstream to get insights (not only expectations); constantly enhancing inital idea, and progressing from rough idea to sharp concept; exposing concept to external people with fresh eyes. Most important priniple, building an environment of trust was essential: trust unleaches emotional, and true creativity;
  • Hands-On: looking for concrete achievement; unleashing the guts to stand up and make; prototyping fast, with limited investment that can easily be stopped (few weeks, a dozen of k€);  trying hard, failing fast, learning fast, and bouncing higher: getting inspired from Lean start-up, Frugal innovation, and Guy Kawasaki mantra: innovation as a game of numbers, ‘a hundred flowers blossom…’;
  • Engaging: liaising with internal & external customers at early stage, showing quickly, even on paper (MVP: don’t worry, be crappy); removing bruising emotion: screening turns mundane when the idea presented is a mere toe in an ocean of other possibilities; learning how to spot the relevant customer, moving forward from incubation to business unit committed in buy-in, contributing to raise the concept to an high-yelding outcome; starting small, being ready to change, and pivot, and iterating.

2 principles complement BIG framework:

  • Managing an innovation portfolio: concurrent incubation of various ideas, generating 10 internal incubations each year, with corresponding funding to let innovation leaders get a busines buy-in or even spin-off ;
  • Learning by doing: Marc created a start-up in the mean time, POPwings.

Being a start-up on its own, BIG found itself a vision, summarized in this mantra: ‘Turning ideas into business’.

Assembling previous philosophy pieces, BIG shaped a repeatable process for innovation:

  1. Opportunity & ideas generation;
  2. Reinforcement;
  3. Incubation: early stage then more substantial development involving testing;
  4. Business launch.

What results?

Starting with a handful of interships, BIG now runs with 8 employees, internal investment fund, and a demanding timeline of 9 months to prove one’s idea right.

POPwings is one of the first success stories. Other ventures are still classified as confidential.

What learnings?

People are the most important trigger for innovation. They require adequate evaluation and compensation system. Gemalto redesigned its management pyramid to encourage technical skills mobilized for innovation, and foster passionates to follow their creative path. Thus, innovation-savy at the most advanced level, advisor, are akin to a regional manager business position.

Innovation doesn’t thrive out of vacuum: being explicit about innovation prioritary domains for the company is a necessity.

Similarly, innovation soars when collective intelligence is up and running. Activating collaborative research, and tech-communities is the way forward.

To become a reality, innovation can’t limit to a slack intent; it has to be recognized as a key value of the company, an empowering direction, and as such, be supported by the CEO in his communication, budget allocation, and benefit from dedicated goals.

Innovating in a large company  might sound an impossible bet, as it brings risk in an environment which is risk-adverse. Yet BIG whopping adventure proves it wrong: it is henceforth achievable to frame a disruptive innovation process even internally.

Credits: Gemalto,,,,,

Editor’s note: Innovation budget breakdown can vary a lot across companies. Nevertheless one rule of thumb could be as follows: 5% of Innovation & R&D budget for speculative or disruptive ideas, 30% for portfolio renewal, the rest for enhancement and support of current portfolio. Another way to sort it is to differentiate the budget allocated to probes & prototypes, to disruptive intense developments, and to quick wins.

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    future of TV - Leading by InnovatingNicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, and further developed at He tweets @nicobry

Nicolas Bry

Serial innovator, Nicolas has set up creative units for new business at Orange, Club-Internet, and SFR. Nicolas created crowd platform, Orange Studio for Intrapreneurs, and edits Open Innovation blog International speaker, entrepreneurs & startups coach, innovation teacher at Telecom ParisTech, HEC & CentraleSupélec, and freelance consultant (ECC). Follow him at @nicobry.




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