The Intertraffic Innovation Awards are a major feature of this event: over 60 high-quality entries were received this year. So, what does it mean for a company that wins? Czech company Cross Zlin won the overall title at the last Intertraffic. Tomáš Juřík, chairman and CEO explained the impact it has had on the company.
Q When was the first time the company entered the Intertraffic Innovation Awards?
A Cross Zlin has been an Intertraffic exhibitor for 16 years now, starting with a small, 16 sq metre stand, compared to today’s 132 sq metre space. In 2008 we were nominated for the Innovation Awards for the first time with our Winter Maintenance Index (WMI) system for price evaluation and cost benefit analysis of winter road maintenance. We are still using and developing our WMI because it is a perfect product with a lot of know-how on the inside. Indeed, thanks to this product, the Czech Republic has significantly optimised its winter maintenance and expenditure.
We first entered the Intertraffic Innovation Awards because we wanted to show that great innovative products could appear from what was then behind the Iron Curtain. Of course that has now disappeared but, unfortunately, you find it still exists in the mentality of many Western European citizens.
We are not, and we do not want to be, just co-workers of the already well-developed west. We’re better than that and very proud that, after one generation of hard work and effort, we have reached the forefront of development in the ITS business. Our aim is to hold this position and continue to bring new, excellent innovative products to the ITS market.
Q What did you learn from that first experience of being nominated for the Innovations Awards?
A Firstly, this exhibition is about ‘who is who’ in the business. Not to be here means that your company does not exist in the international ITS market. In the past, I often saw excellent products that were ahead of ours. That motivated us and, during the last three Intertraffic Amsterdam events, I have been able to see that we are a technology market leader now, which is a very rewarding feeling. We can be easily technologically compared with anybody here.
Q At the last edition of Intertraffic you won the Smart Mobility Category and also the overall award. Did that impact your presence at the event and your business?
A First of all, I personally did not expect this prize at all. In fact, I missed the competition ceremony announcement because I was dealing with customers at our stand. So effectively, I missed a crowning glory in my professional career!
After the win, and for the duration of Intertraffic, our stand was constantly full of people. It also changed things for the company. We established Incinity, a sister company fully dedicated to the smart city concept. From that, came Smart City SW Invipo and Lukas Duffek, who was given the opportunity to buy-into the company, and is now its CEO and a company co-owner. Our Invipo product is essentially the standard bearer for the whole group of similar SW products now.
Frankly speaking, smart city activity is now turning into a real business. We see a lot of new tenders because it is not easy to create a really good smart city concept . Indeed, I have to laugh when some cities place USB ports on park benches and they feel “smart.” That’s nonsense and a totally wrong attitude to this promising activity because it undermines those who are trying to really convert cities into a better place for life.
Q Did winning the Intertraffic Innovation Award help to get opportunities to pitch for business?
A Absolutely! Without a doubt. Many export activities are much easier now because knowledgeable specialists know that such a prestigious prize is a huge and valuable technological achievement as well as an industry-wide endorsement of our products and systems and our standing on the international market.
There were other benefits too. In the Czech Republic we have zero unemployment now so specialists have no problem finding a good job. Unlike many Czech companies, we are not just a nameless sub-contractor to huge Western European international companies. We are a real product finalist with a well-known company name and products! So, it sounds really sexy for incoming new young engineers who want to do something real and successful on the international market. That means we have no problem now in finding exceptional new talent, in spite of a huge industry boom in Czechia.
Q In general, apart from the Innovation Awards, how does Cross Zlin view Intertraffic Amsterdam as an exhibition and a place to do business?
A Intertraffic is a true ITS business comparison platform. Here, and only here, you can find the best innovation and thinking which dictate business trends for years to come. For me personally, it is a real perk of the job. Luckily this event is biennial, because to go through the preparations each spring would be beyond the power of any human being!