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Ashok Ganesh Tells Us About Innovating with standardization during the Pandemic

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Ashok Ganesh CEN-CENELEC

We talked to Ashok Ganesh, Director Market Perspectives & Innovation of CEN-CENELEC about the European Standardization Committees, making standards for Europe and here is what he said about it.

What are standards? 

Ashok Ganesh: A standard is a consensus-built, repeatable way of doing something. Standards are all around us, even if we are not always aware of them!

European standardization is a consensus-building process that involves many players. Standards are created by bringing together all interested parties such as industry, research, governments, and civil society. All parties benefit from standardization through increased product safety and quality as well as lower transaction costs and prices.

European standards are developed through one of the three European Standards Organisations: the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

What is the relevance of standards in the context of the coronavirus pandemic?

Ashok Ganesh: The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the use of standards is very important to ensure that products and services meet the requirements and can be trusted, even in challenging times. Standards have helped in mitigating the negative effects of the pandemic in many ways. For example, product standards for medical and protective equipment, such as face masks, medical gloves, and respiratory protective devices, have shown the importance to ensure that the equipment meets the requirements and that safety is ensured. These standards also helped to facilitate the work of the many companies that converted their production lines to deliver urgently needed equipment.

How can standards support innovation at the level of a start-up? 

Ashok Ganesh: Standards support the development of ideas into products. Transferring innovation results into one or more standards could have a significant impact on the subsequent use of those results by industry by making it clear not only what the results are but also how to implement them.

Therefore, standards can help start-ups to bring their innovation to the market and spread technological advances by making their results transparent and ensuring high quality. Standards give confidence to consumers that innovative technology is safe. They codify the technology requirements and inform both manufacturers and consumers on what to expect. They allow technologies and materials to be interoperable, so it is much easier to know when and how technology can be used in combination with others.

Additionally, standards create a level playing field that allows small companies such as start-ups to compete with much larger companies and to scale up their business.

Can you give an example of a start-up that benefitted from including standardization in its business model?

Ashok Ganesh: Bitmovin is one of the most famous Austrian start-ups, although by now they’re a scale-up. The company was started as a spin-off from a university research project and the founders were involved very early in the standardization process of new video technology and they co-created the ISO/IEC 23009-1 standard. In this process of being involved and creating this new standard, they realized that there was a business opportunity.

This is a successful example of a start-up that managed to scale-up thanks to standardization. Today Bitmovin is an established company with offices in Austria, London, New York, San Francisco, and Hong Kong. The company managed to scale up and grow the business attracting funding from the European Investment Bank and different funding rounds led by private venture capitalists.

How are CEN and CENELEC dealing with innovation?

Ashok Ganesh: We aim to timely identify emerging science and technology areas where standardization activities can support innovation and promote industrial competitiveness. We always try to raise the awareness of standardization among the research and innovation community and we aspire to be a natural channel for innovators to bring their ideas for the development of standards, to facilitate market acceptance of innovative products, to increase their relevance, and to provide interoperability and compatibility.

Your final thoughts?

Ashok Ganesh: Young and innovative companies such as start-ups are key players for ensuring sustainable growth and innovation. For us is very important to strengthen our link with these key actors of the innovation ecosystem and we are fully committed to collaborating to support good innovation in reaching the market as fast as possible.

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