Pascale Wautelet is the Vice President of Global R&D for Label and Graphic Materials at Avery Dennison Corporation. Inventor of the world’s first self-adhesive label, Avery Dennison is a global leader in materials science and manufacturing, specializing in labeling and other materials used in nearly every major industry, from industrial to retail to medical applications.
Pascale is the driving force behind R&D, innovation, and sustainability at Avery Dennison. We spoke with her as part of our IL Member Spotlight series, which profiles our members.
Tell us about your role, and the industries Avery Dennison works with.
We create innovative sustainable and intelligent products and solutions for all industries— in health care, in food, in medical & pharmaceuticals, beverages, automotive, electronics, etc… And this is pretty fascinating because each label in each industry needs different properties and solutions for different applications. I also oversee sustainability for our Labels and Graphic Materials business. We have very bold goals for 2030 [aligned with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development]… And we see the world changing very rapidly with a lot of volatility and disruption and it’s very important for us that we stay ahead of the game. So we are in a continuous transformation journey, trying to reinvent ourselves to better anticipate the future.
Can you share a project that you’ve launched recently?
Something I’m very proud about Avery Dennison… is that we have been able to anticipate and evolve our company over the years, from this very strong reputation for material science delivering physical products, most of those labels, to something that expands beyond material to enable digital solutions and services via our RFID [Radio Frequency Identification] and intelligent label business units… And this is absolutely incredibly powerful. I feel the power of innovation is to be able to anticipate trends and release our human imagination and creativity to connect the dots and to turn these potential disruptions and trends into opportunities to drive value creation.
[Innovation] requires a lot of pre-socializing and pre-communication that needs to happen to make sure that we have strong business leaders sponsoring these initiatives.
What’s your advice about making sure innovation activities get buy-in from leaders across the organization?
R&D—we are scientists with a strong passion for technical aspects… and we have a tendency to lose business people in the details … Communication plays such a very important role in being able to paint the possibility of a new innovation, not from a solution side or technical aspect, but in translating this to a clear value proposition and what it can bring in the future. What are the unmet needs this will address in the market? What type of problem will this solve?
Another very important thing is you cannot be successful if you don’t have a strong business sponsor behind each innovation to make it happen. If you have one person in the room that is not convinced for whatever reason—”I don’t want to put in money,” “I don’t trust that”—you are done. So as R&D leaders we need to create excitement and a clear link to the business strategy. It requires a lot of pre-socializing and pre-communication that needs to happen to make sure that we have strong business leaders sponsoring these initiatives.
What do you know about innovation now, that you wish you knew when you first started in your role?
I think innovation takes courage and resilience… in particular, strategic innovation, because this is one of the most difficult things for any company because it touches all parts of an organization. There are so many key elements to innovation that you need to get right, and if you are missing one you will not be able to achieve your objectives. You also must choose the right strategic domains, validate your hypothesis, and ensure you have the right culture and appetite for taking measured risk and learning. Culture is extremely important… it’s something you need to nurture!