VIPA honoured as a top innovator

Lothar Späth awards the "Top 100" seal of approval to Bavarian automation engineering company for its outstanding innovations management


It's official: VIPA Gesellschaft für Visualisierung und Prozessautomatisierung mbH is one of the 100 most innovative small and medium-sized companies in Germany. So say the results of this year's "Top 100" corporate benchmarking competition - a cross-sectoral business initiative covering the entire country. One key element of the firm's success in this, the 17th year of the renowned contest, was its finely-tuned innovations management. Lothar Späth, former state premier of Baden-Württemberg, will present the prestigious "Top 100" seal of approval to VIPA at an official ceremony in Königswinter's "Gästehaus Petersberg" this Friday evening.

As patron of the SME initiative, he will be recognising the company's achievements in the five key categories of "Innovation-friendly Senior Management", "Climate of Innovation", "Innovative Processes and Organisation", "Innovations Marketing" and "Successful Innovations". This is the second time that VIPA has been recognised as one of Germany's top 100 most innovative SMEs.
The company, which employs 130 people and generated sales of around €35.5 million in 2008, specialises in the development and sale of programmable local control (PLC) systems and add-ons for the engineering sector. Since the foundation of VIPA (short for: Visualisation and Process Automation) in 1985, the company has evolved from a specialist in Siemens-compatible modules into a supplier of fully-fledged PLC systems, with a workforce largely focused on development, quality assurance and marketing. According to the Top 100 analysis, VIPA enjoys an excellent climate of innovation which has led to numerous successful new developments. One contributing factor here is the ring-fenced budget to fund ‘blue sky thinking´ on the part of employees. In 2008, 70 per cent of suggestions put forward were implemented. The innovative climate is further fostered by links with the University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg. This free flow of knowledge into the firm has proved to be a tremendous asset leading, for example, to the introduction of modern design tools into the internal development process.

To qualify for the award, VIPA had to undergo a stringent, two-stage process devised by the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. "Our results show that the 100 top innovators generally tackle challenges head on and are thus well-equipped to deal with the current economic situation, for example. Innovation is a matter of priority at management level for most of these companies," commented Professor Nikolaus Franke, head of the research team, on the analysis. In the past three years, these award-winners generated two thirds of their revenue from innovations and innovative improvements, compared with 30 per cent in a sample of similarly-structured German SMEs. In addition, Top 100 firms were able to shave some 12 per cent off their costs through process innovations, compared with a paltry 4 per cent on the part of "average SMEs".

As a result, this year's "Top 100" contains 54 German market leaders, 22 of which are global leaders in their field. Director Wolfgang Seel is jubilant about VIPA's success: "We are now officially classed among the most formidable innovators in the German SME sector. This award is a great boost to our credibility and will inspire our employees, partners and, of course, our customers with confidence. We could scarcely have hoped for better news in these times of crisis." Overall, 319 companies entered the "Top 100" competition this year.