Meet the 2022 Standards+Innovation awards winners: Ivan NAVARRO GONZALEZ

The CEN and CENELEC Standards+Innovation Awards acknowledge and celebrate the important contributions of Researchers, Innovators and Entrepreneurs to Standardization. On 26 October, for its fifth edition, we will host the 2023 Awards Ceremony.

Approaching the event, we conducted a series of interviews with the winners of last year’s edition, to better know them and understand how winning the award has impacted their career.


For this episode, we interview Ivan NAVARRO GONZALEZ, winner in 2022 of the category ‘Young Researcher’.

1. Please, present yourself.

My name is Ivan, I am 25 years old. I come from Spain and I am working as a Business Analyst in the Contracts & Innovation department, within the Samsung Logistics European Subsidiary. Last year I graduated in MSc Management of Innovation from the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. Before that, I studied International Business Economics at University Pompeu Fabra and also worked in management consulting.

2. How did you become interested in standardization?

During my bachelor, I did an exchange at the University of California San Diego. There, I took some courses about innovation in which we covered the interaction of innovation and standards. It was then when I was interested and surprised about the role that standards play in the business and innovation landscape. Therefore, during my master’s in innovation, I decided to take the course about Standards and Innovation given by Professor Henk de Vries, in order to deep dive into standards and see how they can be used to allow for more effective and efficient innovation.

3. In your research, you studied the impact of standardization on innovation. Can you summarise what you discovered?

From literature, there is evidence that standards may positively impact innovation, and my paper makes a contribution to that. The paper focuses on the role of standards in the creativity part of the innovation process. Standards put constraints, and this might hinder creativity. However, applying the theory of constraints, the opposite can be the case: standards may stimulate creativity.


Standards may set input constraints, process constraints or output constraints, and may influence innovation via different routes: the motivational route, the cognitive route and the social route. Standards can be both internal standards, defined by the company itself, and external standards such as European standards. These may apply both to products and to services.


Current literature tends to focus on output constraints only: by providing requirements for products or services, standards steer the creativity in the preferred direction and may trigger the development of solutions that meet the requirements. But standards may provide input and process constraints as well.


In the product case this can be understood using the concepts of component commonality, platforms, modularity and postponement. For services, standards may apply to, for instance, service delivery, service results, precautions, and ethical codes for employees. But they might also apply to services modularity: services can be assembled in service packages.


Furthermore, the timing of standardization is relevant: both too early and too late standardization hinders innovation. But if done at the right time, standardization can stimulate innovation; the structure provided by standards stimulates idea generation and helps the next steps in the innovation process. 


Companies tend to see standards as a ‘necessary evil’ that hinders innovation. This paper shows the opposite is true. If well managed, standardization can enhance innovation. As a consequence, standardization should be integrated in the innovation process of companies. This will make their innovation process more effective.

4. What is missing and should be done to increase the link between standards and innovation?

Something that comes to my mind is to make contact with universities and the research community earlier in the “student life cycle”. In my opinion, standardization usually appears either too late in the university years or does not appear.


Therefore, making sure that students learn about standardization, as well as making sure that they do so early in their student years, can help in making them interested in standardisation. Hence, the chances that they will then follow a career in standardization that will allow for the generation of research knowledge are higher.

5. 2023 is the European year of skills. Do you think working in standardization has provided you with skills that will help you in your present and future career?

Absolutely, especially on the so-called internal standardization, from a company point of view. I work closely with data and now I can see how important standardized data is to be able to make good analytics. Therefore, working in standardization has helped me become more aware and analytical, always looking to have and create standardized data that will allow everyone to understand datasets and analysis.


But not only that. By applying standardization in my work in a correct way, we were able to make improvements and innovations, since we established common grounds upon which we implemented new ideas ideated by different stakeholders across the company.

6. What has happened in the past year? Has your involvement with and approach to standardization changed?

For sure! I can say that now I am an advocate of standards and standardization as enablers of innovation. When you explore and experience standards and observe the outcomes that result from them, you become aware of all the associated benefits and stray away from the “conventional wisdom”.


However, on the other hand, I have also experienced that trying to apply standardization in the very early stages of the ideation of an innovation can actually hinder it. You cannot establish the grounds when there is not a place to establish grounds. We realized that first we had to experiment by trial and error, and once we got some more knowledge and expertise with the matter, try to standardize.


My research is helpful to understand this, since it also explains the risks of standardization when not applied correctly.

7. What message would you like to share with the 2023 winners and nominees?

First of all, congratulations for having arrived at this stage! It means you did a great work, and you have to be happy and proud for that. And second, keep working on standardization and innovation. The relationship between standardization and innovation still has a lot of room for research, and also many adversaries that advocate that standards are detrimental for innovation. So, there is still a lot of work to do!


Finally, specifically for the young researcher award winner: make the most out of your research and the prize, since it will bring you many new opportunities to discover the world of standardization.

8. And what piece of advice would you like to share with young professionals interested in participating to the world of standardization?

Disconnect from conventional wisdom that says that standards hinder innovation, observe the facts, and see paths in which you can contribute to further explain how correct standardization can improve innovation. With that in mind, together with studying and understanding standardization, you can come up with new research paths that help explaining the relationship between innovation and standardisation.


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