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Innovator of the Year 2017



 
The 24th Top 100 awards for the leading innovators among Germany’s SMEs are about to be presented, and Peter Huber Kältemaschinenbau AG has taken the top spot. The Offenburg-based company is the best in its class (companies with more than 200 employees). Science journalist and TV personality Ranga Yogeshwar, the competition mentor, will present the company with its award at the fourth German SME Summit on 23 June 2017 in Essen.  
 
Clearly structured innovation processes, a fruitful climate for innovation and exceptional success in bringing innovations to market are what characterise the Top 100 companies. And close collaboration with external partners and customers are an integral part of their day-to-day business. In a high-class field, Peter Huber Kältemaschinenbau AG demonstrated some exceptional qualities that gave it the top spot. Explaining the reasons for their decision, the panel of judges said:  
“Peter Huber Kältemaschinenbau AG develops and manufactures high-precision thermoregulation systems used, for example, in stress testing mechanical and electronic components and materials testing. The Offenburg-based company has established itself as a global technology leader. By combining thermodynamics and microelectronics the company has managed to develop the world’s smallest and most precise cooling circulators.”  
 
Huber is a perfect example of how to make the most of collaborative partnerships and so tap into a constant stream of new application areas. And the success of the innovations developed by the company, which was founded in 1968, is impressive. The Innovator of the Year in size category C derives around 90 per cent of its revenues from market innovations and innovative improvements. Chairman of the Board Daniel Huber explains their strategy of perpetual innovation: “We don’t want to be the biggest, we want to be the best.” And this strategy has won Peter Huber Kältemaschinenbau the accolade of Innovator of the Year before, in 2012, though back then it was in size category B.  
 
The panel of judges also praised the way in which the management has systematically created a climate and working environment for its 270 employees where innovation can thrive. And it is not just innovation that benefits from a good climate: although the exterior of the company’s building is almost 50 per cent made of glass, a mere 90kW is needed to heat the approx. 40,000 cubic metres of space inside. Peter Huber used his expertise in thermoregulation systems to good effect during the building’s construction.  
 
“Overall, we noted that Peter Huber Kältemaschinenbau AG has developed highly successful innovations thanks to its well-developed corporate and innovation culture. We were particularly impressed by how well the balance between openness, flexibility and the necessary structures is managed,” the panel concluded.  
 
As the project managers, innovation researcher Professor Nikolaus Franke and his team from the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Vienna University of Economics and Business examined 414 applications on behalf of compamedia. They evaluated around 100 parameters in five assessment categories. 305 companies made it to the final round, and 262 of them received the prestigious Top 100 award (max. 100 per size category). The top three in each size category were entered into the competition for the top spot, and they all received an on-site visit from the project managers. The panel of judges used all the data collected to decide on the group winners, the Innovators of the Year.  
“I’ve been the scientific director of the Top 100 for 14 years, and every year I’m amazed by the level of innovation on display,” says Franke, who is also a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He believes these companies are well equipped to face the future: “The Top 100 are a good example of how companies can use innovation to gain a competitive advantage – not just for today, but also with a view to their future market position.”  
 
Statistics reveal the special status of the top innovators: this year, they include 101 German market leaders and 26 global market leaders. In the last three years, these SMEs have together applied for a total of 1,226 German and international patents. Their revenue growth over the previous five years was 20 percentage points higher than the average for their industries. The proportion of their revenue attributable to innovative improvements and products new to the market was 38 per cent. And their strong position is also driving employment, as they are expected to create around 9,500 new jobs by 2018.  
 
 

 
 
 
 

 
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