HPE News Insights on Innovation: Sylvain Filippi, DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team

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HPE News Insights on Innovation: Sylvain Filippi, DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team

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.@DSVirginRacing's Sylvain Filippi discusses his views on #innovation with @HPE_LivingProg News http://bit.ly/1s7lVau #LivingProgress


Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the Official IT Partner of DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team, one of the sport’s premier teams. HPE delivers big data analytics to power strategic race decisions and improved car performance in near real-time.

Sylvain Filippi, Chief Technical Officer at DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team, shares his views on innovation with HPE Living Progress News.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 11:55am

What does the term “innovator” mean to you?

I believe an innovator is someone who challenges the status quo, someone who disrupts an industry by being creative.

How do you instill innovation into a company’s culture?

By always challenging how we think and by never being satisfied. I was once told a story by someone I worked with in my old job and I feel it’s relevant to this question. Every Sunday, a mother prepares a roast for the whole family—grandparents, parents, kids, everyone. Every time the mother prepares the meal (a bit of a stereotype nowadays!) she cuts both ends off the meat before she puts it in the oven. It doesn’t matter which meat, she just always does it before putting it in the oven. One day one of the children says, “Mum, that’s so odd. Why do you keep doing this?” The mother laughs and says, “Because my darling, it’s an old family tradition. It tastes better this way.”

A few weeks later the grandmother and the child are together in the kitchen. The child says, “Grandma, did you know Mum makes our roast taste better by cutting off the ends?”

The grandmother smiles and says, “Nonsense child. Back in the days when your mother was little we had a small house and an even smaller oven. Every Sunday your mother saw me cut the ends of the roast to fit it into our old oven. She just never thought to ask why and to this day she still does it.” 

The moral of the story is to challenge what you think you know. Many people don’t question why they do the things they do. So ask yourself: Why am I doing this and is it still relevant?

What, if any, is the role of innovation in driving a more sustainable future?

I think technical innovation has the most important role in our society. There are two ways of being more sustainable. We can cut down our consumption drastically to get to a level of consumption and waste that is sustainable—but sadly this won’t happen. 

Realistically, the world consumption levels are unlikely to decrease, hence the need to manage our waste through recycling. Energy production is also critical, we need clean, renewable energy. If, on top of this, we can reduce consumption too, that’s great. But the bottom line is that if we are going to keep consuming, we need to do it in a better way.

You have a long history in the automotive industry and have been working with electric car technology for nearly a decade. What has been the greatest innovation you’ve witnessed in electric car technology?

There hasn’t been a major breakthrough innovation in the past 10 years. However, we have seen steady, incremental increases in innovation in electric car technology. For example, over the past 10 years we have increased the energy density of the batteries on average 8% year-on-year. 

With regard to the efficiency of the electric powertrain, we’ve improved a lot with better motors, better invertors and better power control but there has been no major innovation.

What do you think is the greatest opportunity for electric car technology?

I believe we will see a major breakthrough in battery technology that will encourage the manufacturing of electric cars on a global scale. I believe this could happen in the next 10 years (five years if you’re optimistic, but let’s say 10).

Can innovations in motorsport be applied beyond the race industry?

Motorsport has always been powered by innovation. Sure you need good drivers, but if all drivers are equal, it’s the best car that wins. A lot of the main innovations in the automotive industry have come from motor racing. Rearview mirrors, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), traction control—they were all invented in motor racing. 

I believe that this also applies in electric racing because we are developing better batteries, a better powertrain, things that make the car more efficient. These are all things that have a direct relevance to the road car industry.

As a Chief Technology Officer, when you think about innovation, what is on your list of “must haves?”

A good team. It’s simple, innovation doesn’t come from machines, it comes from people. Having a good team is critical. The most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve had to do is build a team.

When you think about innovation today versus where you were 10 years ago, what do you wish you knew then that you know now? How do you think you’ll answer this question 10 years from now?

Good question. We are actually where I (and the entire electric vehicle industry) predicted we would be. We knew there wouldn’t be any major breakthroughs but that growth would be steady. The real question is, will my predictions of where the industry will be in the next 10 years be on point? Let’s chat 10 years from now.

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Keywords: Innovation & Technology | DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team | Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) | Innovation & Technology | Living Progress | Sylvain Filippi