Hitachi came to us to help transform its innovation capability and shift its R&D activities towards market-driven, breakthrough innovation, drawing on our long and successful track record.  

A new innovation culture

This project has transformed Hitachi’s innovation culture, enabling it to become more agile and commercially focused, instilling a genuine sense of self-belief and turning team members into radical innovation champions.

The initial project was carried out at Hitachi’s Global Center for Social Innovation (CSI) – a distributed R&D facility with 500 staff focused on future technologies. Having shown direct and significant benefits, it’s now being rolled out to Hitachi’s other R&D centres worldwide. 

Far-reaching organisational change

Fourteen improvement initiatives were implemented in three waves of change.

These include a new framework for radical innovation and co-creation with a shift to a project-focused mindset, the introduction of a Project Management Office (PMO) and the deployment of portfolio management tools.

Fast, customer-driven innovation

The radical innovation framework – a menu of activities, tools and templates for project managers – has greatly accelerated the pace of innovation within Hitachi, while retaining the company’s long-term commitment to developing technology solutions that benefit society.

Implementing the framework is transforming Hitachi R&D from being technology-focused to externally proactive, customer-led and commercially astute. 

Global impact

We worked with Hitachi R&D globally to promote the new approach, providing a common language and terminology across all sites.

We shared how Cambridge Consultants manages international R&D projects and accelerates project timescales by, for example, coordinating activities to effectively create an 18-hour working day.

To date, the framework is operational in three CSI locations, where newly-formed teams focus on co-creation projects with partners and customers.  

Our involvement


Like Hitachi, we are a collective of engineers and scientists delivering radical innovation. As such, Hitachi identified with us but asked themselves: “Why can they while we cannot achieve such success?”

We conducted an initial diagnosis followed by a re-design of Hitachi’s R&D processes. Initiating cultural change through the new framework involved a variety of techniques, including one-to-one mentoring sessions and hands-on workshops with key project personnel, plus roadshow presentations to more than 350 R&D professionals.  

“Cambridge Consultants’ open and collaborative approach has transformed and energised the innovation culture in Hitachi R&D. Our Global Centers for Social Innovation now share a common language and agile innovation framework. This has accelerated our development process and empowered our teams to deliver radical and customer-focused innovation.”
Kazuyoshi Torii, CTO, Hitachi Europe

The challenge


Hitachi realised it needed to transition from a ‘product-out’ to a ‘market-in’ approach, working with customers to understand their issues and create solutions that provide new value.

It also realised that R&D efforts needed accelerating to meet market demands. 

External benchmarking

Hitachi is a multi-billion dollar multinational with more than 100 years of history providing innovative technology solutions. However, even the most successful technology companies struggle to balance radical customer-driven innovation with incremental innovation and ‘technology push’.

We took Hitachi to benchmark seven world-leading technology companies to understand how they drive innovation. Insights gleaned through this collaboration – combined with learnings gleaned from an analysis of our own innovation process – provided valuable benchmarks for change.  

Manoeuvring the container ship

With more than 300,000 employees, Hitachi considers itself to be like a container ship – a vast structure whose trajectory cannot be easily changed. So, we set up agile project teams with delegated authority, enabling them to pivot and change direction quickly – like speedboats launching from the mother ship.

Embracing the concept of ‘fail-fast’ and accepting the need to ‘kill or chill’ some projects to release resources for more promising ones was challenging, but was ultimately recognised as beneficial and necessary to drive truly radical innovation. 

'Learn by doing'

To accelerate uptake of the new ways of working, our designers, engineers and consultants are collaborating with Hitachi on several ‘learn by doing’ projects.

These are helping to cement the new approach and Hitachi is now running more than 20 projects in different countries using the new ways of working. 

The team


Tales of the team


Interesting insights from the people who made it happen
“We built the framework during an exhilarating but exhausting week of workshops that enabled Hitachi to create radical concepts – and prove their all-round value – faster and more efficiently than before.”

 Tom Empson, technical authority on radical innovation
“It was a pleasure to host a workshop with CSI’s senior management team to agree a challenging ambition for Hitachi R&D. A major outcome was that it needed to cover not only financial targets but also organisational and cultural change metrics.”

Arend Jan van Bochoven, account manager
“At first, we were anxious there could be a clash of cultures, but both teams quickly realised the strength of the collaboration. Out of this grew many friendships, cemented over sake dinners in Tokyo and while punting down the river Cam."

Hirotako Saso, country manager, Japan
“Fourteen improvement initiatives were delivered within seven months, making for an intense, fast-paced re-design programme that required extremely close collaboration and commitment on both sides.”

Colin Pryor, project manager
“Seven benchmarking visits to global leaders in the USA and Europe, with eight Hitachi R&D executives, provided insight and inspiration. They instilled confidence that our initiatives were well underpinned and necessary for success.”

Jiahui Lu, benchmarking study project leader