The i-Lab is Air Liquide’s innovation laboratory. It aims at exploring new markets through a user-centric approach so as to detect, test and accelerate new growth opportunities for the Group. As a place for both reflection and experimentation, i-Lab develops in conjunction with various innovation, operations and business units teams within the Group new offers and spreads new ways of working.
The i-Lab maintains an active technology watch to identify and understand new usages. It evaluates the impact that key social trends may have on the future behavior of the end users and the associated value chains, and analyzes new organizational and technological trends.
The i-Lab brings together employees from diverse nationalities and educational backgrounds, ranging from anthropology and biology to design, science and other disciplines.
By focusing on the usages of the end-users, the intrapreneurs of the i-Lab study the technical feasibility and financial viability of disruptive projects with real-life applications. They materialize those ideas and carry out early-stage user tests based on prototypes created using cutting-edge equipments for 3D printing, laser cutting or digital modeling.
The team also leverages design skills to facilitate the use of developed solutions, and digital to offer new user experiences.
Connected to innovation ecosystems, the i-Lab incubates those proofs of concept until maturity to validate that they are creating value and then, supports their development outside the i-Lab by relying on the Group entities.
Improving air quality is a major environmental and health challenge. Several i-Lab teams are now developing projects in response to this challenge on the base of early-stage exploratory research designed to understand the concerns and needs of the end-users. One of these projects is a pilote solution for indoor air purification, that is treating the air used in building ventilation systems. This project is one of the winners selected by UrbanLab, the urban experimentation laboratory of the City of Paris in France.
i-Lab also commits to work closely with other stakeholders (companies, public authorities, startups, researchers and others) to facilitate the emergence of projects improving urban air quality. In this context, i-Lab is a member of AIRLAB, an innovation accelerator dedicated to air quality.
Access Oxygen, developed by i-Lab in collaboration with the Healthcare teams and the Group’s subsidiary in Senegal, is a comprehensive healthcare offer including all equipment and services required to use medical oxygen in the treatment of acute diseases in small suburban and rural healthcare centers.
The Hello Tomorrow Challenge can count on the committed support of Air Liquide ever since its launch in 2014. In line with its open innovation approach, Air Liquide and particularly the i-Lab are focused on identifying the technologies and usages that may emerge from the ecosystem of deep-tech startups. In 2017, this partnership allowed the i-Lab team to participate in the assessment of startups in the category “Energy Transition”, and to select eight finalists from more than 3,000 candidate projects. Projects in this category included startups working on converting heat to electricity, generating renewable energy from food waste and storing thermodynamic energy. Many experts and managers from the Group had the opportunity for detailed discussions with all the participating startups.