Innovation at SMEs: a story by Benjamin Ott, T3LGROUP

Benjamin Ott is a young innovator working at T3LGroup, a French SME who has a long tradition of developing new manufacturing processes, and product applications for office products, and shopfitting equipments.

Logo Tcreative

Benjamin handles the T-Creative project, a recent TL3Group department to address new customers and special products, and he concurrently completes a Master2 at Strasbourg Management School. He tells us more about the way innovation strives to grow in a Small and Medium Enterprise.

Nicolas Bry: What are the name, and business of your company ?

Benjamin Ott: The name of the company is T3LGROUP. The main business of the group is about office product (Display System, Signage and Identification).

T3L products

How is innovation currently managed? What is the process for new product development?

The innovation product is managed by the Marketing Department. The feedback of the different Sales rep on the ground generate ideas. On one side because the competitor has some new ranges, new sizes, new colors, new options on his product or on the other side, because the customer (in our case the distributor) expresses a need. And this need can give birth to a new product.


You mentioned the incubation of a startup: What was the reason why? Was it linked to digital transformation, and how was it handled?

The paper related business is slightly declining. This is a structural trend due to the digitization. Less and less of paper is used because a lot of company for some years move to dematerialize their documents from paper. Therefore we look forward to prepare our future new offer, cooperating with a startup company which will prepare our new “digital Tarifold” service.


You are committing to intrapreneurship through your current research (Master): what are your expectations? What are the hurdles to translate your intrapreneurship learnings in your company? How would you ideally implement intrapreneurship in your company?

My expectations are that the intrapreneurship is a good solution for a company to innovate, to explore and test new business area. It’s a very attractive solution for employees to show their skills and potential. But if the intrapreneurs have no means (material, machine, tools to work) and no recognition, the passion, the flame are going to switch off.

Ideally intrapreneurship should be an overall program implemented by a specific department with a dedicated budget, the appropriate means of material, and the support of all the management, and the employees of the company.


More broadly, what are the challenges that SMEs are facing related to innovation (lack of means, lack of culture,…)? Reversely, what are the opportunities you try to exploit (open innovation…)?

The SMEs have to listen more to the new innovation solutions, and and evolve from their historical way of working. They have to try bold ideas, and put the necessary means in order to make them a success, and not a disappointment.

To work around the lack of means, and to develop its inovation culture, SMEs can:

  • Set-up partnerships with universities, professional associations, and research centers; topics can be submitted to students who have specific skills, that the SME does not master internally;
  • Leverage employees’ ideas and skills through intraprenuership program, initiating creative meetings at breakfast, innovation challenges, and idea box;
  • Develop its know-how by hiring new employees, or acquiring a new company presenting strong synergies;
  • Intensifying customer observation, improving market knowlege and competition, in order to be an innovation leader on its market, rather than facing innovation from the competition.



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