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SAP Labs China: Innovate in China for China and the World


In 1997, SAP set up a R&D center in China, which was upgraded to Labs China in 2003. SAP Labs China is the fourth largest lab of SAP today, with 2500 employees, of which 97% is local talent. SAP Labs China is a witness, participant and driver of China’s innovation progress. It started with development and localization for global products during the 1900s. Along with the soaring of China’s economy, Labs China attached great importance to co-innovation with Chinese customers by leveraging the market opportunities and talent advantages of China in the turn of the century.

Today, SAP Labs China also introduces the best practices from China back into the global market as “Reverse Innovation” on top of the above-mentioned R&D work. Guided by the vision of “Innovate in China for China and the World”, SAP Labs China set up the “Zero-Distance” strategy to obtain market insight, build innovation culture, and upgrade the overall innovation consciousness through the “Zero-Distance” collaboration with customer, ecosystem, employee and other business departments of SAP.

SAP Labs China encompasses the entire research and development lifecycle from market research, prototyping to development, rollout and support. Through solid foundation laying over the past ten years, SAP Labs China has become the driving force of thought leadership and technology innovation in China, and was honored with “2013 China Technical Business Awards -- Top 10 Labs” and “2014 Best Co-innovation Lab in China” in recent years.

Fostering Culture of Innovation

As a fast-growth-market lab and core R&D hub to innovate in China, SAP Labs China is committed to building a culture of innovation and has been continuously encouraging customer-centric innovation activities to create viable business in new markets. SAP Labs China also encourages grassroots innovation. “d-cafe” program was introduced in early 2015 to support grassroots innovation.

“d-cafe” program is a local program originated from Labs China. It’s composed of three pillars, namely i-culture, i-incubator and d-time. “i-culture” fosters a culture of grassroots innovation via Innovation Salon, Guest Lecture Hall and Innovation Credit Point; “i-incubator” offers funding, mentoring and market access channel, plus prototyping gadgets; “d-time” enables developers to validate concepts with customers, to showcase at DemoJam as well as other SAP events.

Taking InnoWeek, the global SAP labs innovation contest program, for example, it is one of the key event platforms for “d-time”. The 2015 InnoWeek was warmly embraced by colleagues across all Labs China locations. 47 ideas from Beijing, Chengdu, Nanjing, Shanghai and Xi’an were submitted, 24 got into the finalist. They cover topics like IoT, Cloud, connected mining, 3D printing, etc. Five teams made their way to the next “d-café incubation” phase, to get support from Labs China Management Team on funding, mentoring, market access and prototyping facilitation to turn their ideas into viable business proposals.

Customer Centered Innovation

We are convinced that it is unable to deliver a trusted and high quality product by development behind closed door, so SAP Labs China engages with customers in each stage of R&D to ensure the innovations are in China for China and the world. To achieve this goal, we collaborate with internal Line of Businesses to establish a Customer Centric Community as a strong foundation to enable customer engagement; liaise with SAP China Field teams to promote the deal support program and knowledge enablement; and support marketing event in every possible way to drive local market success.

The concept of customer-centric innovation is realized through local and global customer engagement programs, including:

• Customer Sponsorship Program, aiming to accelerate early adoption of new innovation (IoT/Industry 4.0, S/4HANA, Cloud, and other innovations), enable more developers to meet with customers, build the long term relationship with strategic customers and explore the co-innovation opportunities. For example, we sponsored the early adoption of HCM cloud solution and HCI integration for Nippon Paint, which successfully went live and was turned to reference story in the end.

• CEI & Co-innovation, which enables customers to get an early insight into SAP product plans, influence the product development, closely collaborate in a structured approach during the full development cycle at SAP, network with peers around one topic and securely exchange information in a clear legal framework for customers and SAP. Labs China co-innovated with HELI on PLM and Hongxiang Yi Xin Tang on Intelligent Store Management System based on SAP HANA, both of which were also built as reference cases.

Promoting IoT/Industrie 4.0 in China

Chinese and German government have agreed to strengthen cooperation in IoT/Industrie 4.0 on Oct.10, 2014. On May 8, 2015, China announced “Made in China 2025” Plan to focus on ten areas – ICT, Digital CNC & Smart Robots, Aerospace Equipment, Ship Industry, Rail Transportation Equipment, New Energy Car, Electric Power Equipment, Agricultural Machinery, New Materials, Biomedical and Medical devices.

To harness the opportunity, SAP Labs China launched SUPER program (Share, Understand, Promote, Elaborate and Reach) to promote IoT/Industrie 4.0, and position SAP as the thought leader for IoT/Industrie 4.0 in the Chinese market through close collaboration with the local government, academia, research institutions, universities, business partners and customers.

In CITE 2015 (China’s CeBIT), SAP Labs China won two top awards for IoT/Industrie 4.0 – “CITE 2015 Gold Award of Innovative Products and Applications for SAP Connected Manufacturing and Predictive Maintenance and Services Solution for Industrie 4.0” and “CITE 2015 Award of Innovative Products and Applications for SAP Connected Construction”. A glimpse of the efforts made under the SUPER program:

• Share: SAP Labs China has beeing conducted internal and external events to share IoT/Industrie 4.0. For example, recently on Oct.22, 2015, Prof. Dr. Henning Kagermann, President of acatech – German National Academy of Science and Engineering, former CEO of SAP paid a visit to Beijing. In virtue of Henning’s great influence and our good government relation, a high level special summit was organized by ChinaInfo 100, a high end platform providing academic support to China’s IT policy makers. Henning made a keynote speech titled “From Industrie 4.0 to Smart Service World – Data-Driven Transformation of the Economy” to ChinaInfo 100 top tier members, business leaders from large SOEs and policy makers in IT sector

• Understand: Through engagement with local partner and customers, we can get insight on local market. For example, SAP Labs China and the local partner Shenyang Institute of Automation (SIA) jointly developed an IoT/Industrie 4.0 predictive maintenance solution with integration to Business Network Ariba and Fieldglass. The solution has been showed to German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and Chinese Vice-Premier Ma Kai at CeBIT 2015, with positive impact on deal closing and branding SAP in IoT/Industrie 4.0 as Thougtleader.

• Promote: SAP China signed two major MOUs in the witness of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during their visit to Hefei, China, Premier Li’s home town, on Oct. 30, 2015. Clas Neumann, Senior Vice President, Head of Global SAP Labs Network, Head of Fast Growth Market Strategy Group, and Sam Li, Vice President, SAP Greater China, Co-General Manager, signed Nanjing government/SAP and XCMG/SAP MoUs on behalf of SAP respectively.

Among the two projects, XCMG – SAP Industry 4.0 project is leveraging SAP HANA big data platform technology to extend IoT Smart Cloud services application to XCMG’s global equipment smart manufacturing and smart management. The application of Industry 4.0 solution covers from R&D, installation and testing, smart logistics, through to preventive maintenance.

• Elaborate: SPARK Group, the first non-governmental group on IoT/Industrie 4.0 in China, was founded on Jan.26, 2015 with seven leading enterprises members. The objective for the group is to build IoT/Industrie 4.0 pilot projects in China and to build a strong ecosystem to become the advisory board for the establishment of industry standards, information security policies, government support policies and industry alliances.

• Reach: Labs China worked extensively on talent incubation for IoT/Industrie 4.0. We cooperate with top universities, incl. Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT, direct report of Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China), Fudan University, Tongji University, etc, to provide trainings to governmental officials and enterprises leaders. During his recent visit, Prof. Dr. Henning Kagermann also had a special meeting with the president of BIT and a roundtable discussion with VP and professors from BIT, Tsinghua, Renmin universities etc. to exchange ideas and deepen the Sino-German cooperation.

All about Investment in Talent

Talent is the most valuable resource for research labs. To truly achieve transformation under today’s digital economy, companies need the right talent to support strategic advancement. So does SAP Labs China. Over the past years, Labs China spent a lot of time and effort developing talent training programs, not only on product and technology, but also on soft skills that are vital for employees’ career development. The programs include Senior Leadership Mini-EMBA cooperated with CEIBS (top business school in APJ),  Leadership Catalyst program to develop global leadership, Early Talent program and Let's Shine program, etc. SAP Labs China is also a balanced lab in terms of Diversity & Inclusion. We have 36% female in the workforce and 30% female in management. The Business Women Network gathers regularly to provide career development support to female employees.

Last year, SAP Labs China got 82% Employee Engagement Index, and won the award of the “2014 Best Companies to Work For in Greater China”, after deep Culture Audit© and Evaluation survey conducted by Great Place to Work Institute Limited.

SAP Labs China also works closely with Tsinghua, Fudan, Tongji universities and other top institutions in China, to bring SAP’s latest innovation and technology to the young talents, and co-innovate in strategic innovation topics. In return, Labs China gets access to the best-of-breed talents in the marketplace.

Moving into the Digital Economy

Today, in the digital economy, which requires us to change, transform, adopt and reimagine how we do everything, SAP Labs China is actively reaching out to feel the pulse of market. We’ll work with our talents, customers and the entire ecosystem to continue our innovation journey, and embrace the world of digital transformation and beyond.

Former Member

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