• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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How the global GE team came together for a uniquely African Innovation Centre

An example of a “Hospital of the Future” at the Africa Innovation Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. (GE)
An example of a “Hospital of the Future” at the Africa Innovation Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. (GE)

The GE Global Operations Properties team was tasked with planning, designing and building the Africa Innovation Centre (AIC), after evaluating the results and key findings from the four existing innovation centres in Middle East and Africa, to incorporate best practices in order to deliver a truly unique facility.

As the first GE innovation centre  in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the challenge was to make the AIC in Johannesburg, South Africa a multi-purpose centre. The AIC provides GE Healthcare employees with an agile workspace; is home to a model of a “Hospital of the Future“ and is a great training space for GE customers. The overall aim was to create a sustainable centre that incorporates global principles into a smooth mix of integrated workspaces, training zones, digital laboratories and an interactive exhibition space.

READ ALSO: South African journalist wins GE Energy & Infrastructure Award

Central to the conceptualisation and design was the GE store, a company initiative which encourages the exchange of knowledge, technology and tools across teams in different GE businesses and geographical locations. Leveraging  the brain power and global footprint of a multi-industry company like GE resulted in the team saving about $1-million in the execution of this project. The AIC is the result of a $70-million commitment by GE to innovation, localisation and development in SSA.

“GE is transforming into the world’s premiere digital industrial company, and the Africa Innovation Centre provides a unique environment for GE to collaborate with the best minds in and for Africa. The Global Operations Properties team led this project from concept to inauguration, achieving several milestones in the process, including being the first fully agile, LEED-certified* GE workspace across Africa,” said Huned Ujjainwala, Regional Operating Leader, GE Global Operations MENAT SSA. The AIC represents many firsts for GE: first GE green and LEED-certified building in SSA; first truly agile workspace in Middle East-Africa; and the first building to source and commission local designers and artisans to fulfil the requirements for purpose-built furniture. With enterprise development being a priority, GE South Africa exceeded their Black Economic Empowerment targets with a 90%  score on the project.

“The part I found most rewarding was watching the project develop from a concept to a design on paper and then into reality, seeing the value the space brings to GE. Seeing a building come alive with collaboration, being a central point  where people want to spend time because it fosters the right behavior and environment, is amazing,” said Renier Saayman, Regional Properties Leader, GE Global Operations MENAT SSA and India.

“Developing a clear brief and scope for the Centre was challenging at first. There were lots of good ideas about what could be done, but filtering those to determine which would offer the best value for GE and their customers was sometimes a challenge. Tie this to tight budgets and you have loads of opportunity to be creative,” said Ben Preston, Senior Construction Project Services Manager Global Operations Properties, MENAT, SSA and India.

Since opening its doors in June this year, feedback about the AIC has been positive and work is now underway to create a space for GE Digital. Jeff Sommers, General Manager, Global Supply Chain for GE SSA, said: “The Global Operations Properties team partnered with stakeholders from the different GE businesses on the creation of the Africa Innovation Centre that helps drive innovation, localisation and development across Africa. With the property team’s leadership, we are already at full capacity at the Innovation Centre, with the SSA Learning  Centre, the Healthcare Africa HQ, a customer centre and service operations cohabitating the facility. The AIC has already had many distinguished visitors such as customers and GE leaders, which include Jeff Immelt, Susan Peters, John Flannery and Jay Ireland.”

* Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system that was devised by the United States Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and to encourage market transformation towards more sustainable design.