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From a family run business to an innovation driven one – how Armstrong Industrial decided on Open Innovation

Phyllis Ong, Deputy CEO at Armstrong Industrial, shared that Armstrong Industrial as an elastomer and foams specialist has always been focusing on its core business areas of Noise, Vibration and Heat Management. The conservative family business realises that opening up to new innovations beyond existing businesses is key to its long-term growth and success.

“We were somewhat in a comfort zone. We are used to taking low risks and it’s always been customer-and-industry-led,” said Ms Ong in a keynote presentation at TechInnovation 2017. “Today’s environment is volatile and uncertain, no matter how clever you are. With Industry 4.0 we know we would be missing out on something big if we didn’t make a transformational change,”

Armstrong Industrial’s core business for the last 43 years is to manufacture customised requirements for MNCs and OEMs in heat, noise and vibration related solutions. Its elastomer and foam products are used in a wide variety of industries, primarily the automotive, consumer electronics and industrial and data storage.

While its traditional business is performing well, its founder Gilbert Ong has always intended to focus on innovation and breaking boundaries. It is no wonder that the forward-looking Mr Ong named the company after Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

These days, Armstrong also wants to be known for a key innovator and collaborator with other organisations, be they researchers or entrepreneurs with an interesting and scalable solution to share. Focus areas are consumer products and healthcare-biomedical sectors.

Harvesting collagen from aquatic waste

Armstrong is currently working with Collagreen, a spin-off from Nanyang Technological University to bio-upcycle food-grade waste from agricultural and industrial sources at local farms into high value biomaterials like collagen. The two parties met through IPI’s Tech Alert Service and Open Innovation Platform.

In February 2017, an Armstrong related entity and Collagreen formalised a collaboration to develop collagen-based products for the medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries. “We are focusing on projects with high intellectual-property value with long term industry growth to do with Industry 4.0,” said Ms Ong. “We are funding and assisting commercialization of young startups as long as we believe in their dynamic leadership and capabilities,” she added.

Apart from collaborating with external parties, Armstrong also has an in-house research & development team that has spawned several new patents. Armstrong has come up with different types of materials that have specialised functions. For example, the Armstrong Armour is a special formulation for elastomers to have excellent resistance against ozone, heat, water and noise. The elastomers have a weight reduction of up to 40 percent and has anti-bacterial qualities activated by ultra-violet light exposure.

“We don’t want to be at the stage where we become desperate for innovation. We want to start on this innovation journey early so we can exercise our own discretions and choose the optimal growth path and projects,” said Ms Ong.

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