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Innovate for air quality

Interview with Carina Krastel, Project Manager, Air Liquide i-Lab

As an intrapreneur at the i-Lab and member of the "Act for Air" team, Carina Krastel applies a user-centric approach and start-up methodology to develop new air purification solutions for urban pollution hot spots.

Can you tell us about the Act for Air initiative, which includes pilot projects in which you are involved?

Act for Air projects within the i-Lab, the Air Liquide innovation laboratory, aim to find solutions to improve air quality. With my colleague Simon Vidal, I am working on the development of innovative projects around air purification for urban pollution hot spots such as car parks, tunnels or underground railway enclosures. Today, these places are equipped with ventilation systems, but not air treatment. Our idea is to install mechanical units which filter out micro-particles while consuming almost no energy (air treatment through positive ionization). These devices improve both indoor and outdoor air. In this context, we are taking part in a pilot project in Eindhoven (Netherlands), in collaboration with several partners including the local city university.

As an intrapreneur, what challenges are you facing in carrying out this type of project?

For any project conducted in the i-Lab, we have to convince internal sponsors, in the same way that entrepreneurs must convince potential investors. Meanwhile, we approach other businesses that may be interested in driving our idea forward. What made the difference was our passion and our conviction that the idea would work. Thanks to Air liquide, an expert in gases for industry and health, we have greater legitimacy with sponsors and partners. Our determination to work to improve quality of life plays to our advantage.

How do you think the i-Lab illustrates the pioneering spirit that sets Air Liquide apart?

In my opinion, being a pioneer means veering off the beaten track and experimenting without fear of failure. You can learn from failure, it only implies a relationship of trust between the intrapreneur and his management. Through the i-Lab projects, this is exactly what we are doing. For example, with "Act for Air", we are testing solutions to improve the people’s quality of life. In addition, we are part of a major transformation at Air Liquide, insofar as the team of which I am a member is applying a user-centric approach and start-up methodology to create innovation. Our mindset is: "if an idea isn’t working, we can just move on to the next one". Finally, with this intrapreneurial status, we have a real decision-making responsibility: we work in consultation with our ecosystem and then we make the decision. It is an interesting and effective way of working, and one that contributes to the transformation of the Group.

Our mindset: if an idea isn’t working, we can just move on to the next one

What impact will "Act for Air" have on health and the environment?

Improving air quality in areas of cities particularly affected by micro-particle pollution stands to have a significant public health effect, helping to reduce premature deaths recorded annually worldwide due to air pollution. This is a sector that Air Liquide knows well, due to its experience in the medical sector, especially in respiratory diseases.

This interview is part of a series of five interviews with pioneering Air Liquide employees who are helping to move the Group forward and build the world of the future.