Innovation Today for Tomorrow’s Buildings

At Kingspan, we believe innovation holds the key to solving the built environment’s greatest challenges. We sat down with Sandra Del Bove, Kingspan’s recently appointed Group Head of Innovation and Mike Stenson who previously led that part of our Group and is now Project Director of our Ukraine project, to learn about their expertise and gain insight on how innovation is at the heart of our business. 

Your back stories 

Mike: Prior to involvement with our innovation work, my background was within operations. I was focused on building operational competence and capability around our product manufacturing and supply chain. Aside from participation in research and development, it would be fair to say that innovation was a new area to me. 

Sandra: My background is marketing and more recently that has been strategic roles, where it was improvements to existing product ranges or new products, brands and systems based on customer or market feedback driven by our Planet Passionate objectives. For example, the roadmap to lower embodied carbon of our Kooltherm range. 

Innovate to differentiate 

Mike: When we started to develop our innovation program it was especially important not to grab and centralize projects because that’s not the culture of Kingspan. Collaboration is key to success. This made it possible to develop a program across several core workstreams including: energy management, decarbonization, circularity, performance improvement, digitalization, healthy materials and automation of product and service delivery. 

Sandra: If we look at IKON specifically, there is a hub of specialized skills and a world-class laboratory facility. But at the same time, we have pods in all our divisions and geographies operating like R&D centers. They all have specialized knowledge and experience in certain areas. This makes us special as we are not trying to centralize everything as we recognize that there is expertise within these divisions. They are close to our customers, so we know where innovation can have a direct impact. 

Some current developments 

Sandra: In the area of energy management the flagship project is PowerPanel. It is the first integrated insulated panel and PV system that’s manufactured as a single component. This is our response to customer and market feedback to make installation more efficient while offering a system guarantee. It’s also in line with the global trend for modular construction. 

We are doing a lot of work around bio-based materials to add to our spectrum of insulation solutions. Over the last two years we’ve conducted more than 2100 tests to understand those materials better and determine what solutions would be most suitable for our customers. As a result, we’ve recently invested in hemp and wood fiber insulation and there are a couple more materials that, with development, can add real value as part of the decarbonization agenda.

Successful delivery 

Sandra: The spirit and attitude of people, culture, networking and understanding of how everything works is important. Everything else you can learn over time as you have the experts and teams that know best to guide you. 

Mike: Over time I realized that innovation isn’t spark of the moment, it’s about methods, techniques and putting frameworks in place to identify areas that allow us all get involved. I would also add that innovation can mean so many different things to different people. Whoever is in such a role must understand Kingspan and be aligned with where we want to head. 


Sandra: A highlight for me has always been when we bring or develop new people and skills, either organically or through acquisition. One that jumps out for me is Troldtekt who joined us in 2022. This was the first real bio-based material business that joined our group. It was fascinating to see the motivation and knowledge that they brought. 

Mike: I could talk about revenue growth, new products, factories and acquisitions. But, fundamentally to see people that you hired, grow and develop and take on significant new responsibilities is fantastic. We are all in our positions for a period and someday the chair will move. So, you would like to think that during the time you were sat in the chair, you gave the teams that you worked with the greatest opportunity to gain experience and develop. 

From Innovation to Ukraine 

Mike: I’m proud of the role I had in developing our innovation program, it’s good to see the expansion of areas such as material science and digitalization. But now is a suitable time for me to tackle my next opportunity. We're investing $280m in a new Building Technology Campus in Ukraine. I am really excited to be the Project Director for this and look forward to the collaboration required with the project team and partners to make this a success. 

The new state-of-the-art facility will help meet the rapidly growing demand for energy efficient buildings. The ambition is for the site to be constructed over the next five years, creating more than 600 jobs. The campus will manufacture advanced insulation and district heating technologies that enable net-zero carbon buildings. 

The final word 

Mike: Innovation is never a straight line, projects can start and will not always be an immediate success and you must stop, reassess before deciding on the next stage. We must manage the business for today to ensure its successful, but we also must keep an eye on the future and innovation is critical to this. 

Sandra: What we have as an organization is great, although we must improve what we have and continually identify areas for improvement. Often this may mean developing and pushing the next generation of solutions that the market hasn’t thought about yet. 

I would like to underline the fantastic work that Mike and the team have put into IKON but also our processes and culture. IKON wasn’t there when Mike started in the role and now it’s a world-class innovation center that is a point of contact for our businesses around the world. It’s great to build on this now. 

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Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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