In the meantime, the Helix has already been the scene of “six to seven workshops, with many more scheduled,” said Rajan Rajendran, Emerson’s vice-president (system innovation center and sustainability), during an ‘E360 Forum’ presentation at Emerson’s booth at the AHR Expo in Orlando, Florida, last week.

Fostering a new style of innovation

At the Helix, Emerson hopes to lead a new style of innovation in the HVAC&R industry, one that invites ideas from outside the company and even outside the industry. “Helix is as much or more about a way of thinking – how we innovate, how we collaborate with everybody, and how we put speed and the real world in front of us in everything that we do,” said Rajendran.

He argued that innovation needs to take place in “weeks, not months or years,” and to that end Emerson has put together a 10-week process it intends to follow at the Innovation Center.

After an idea or problem is identified, the first step, during weeks one to six, is “problem exploration”. This includes building a “diverse team” that may include people within the HVAC&R industry (contractors, component makers, OEMs, academics and end users) as well as from fields other than HVAC&R who can “open your mind to a lot of great ideas”.

Turning ideas into viable business concepts

Weeks seven to nine focus on “ideation” – coming up with solutions and putting them to the test in the Helix’s “real-world” facilities, including a kitchen and a store. Week 10 completes the process by taking ideas and turning them into a viable business – “the most important step,” said Rajendran.

The Helix’s well-lit facility includes several real-life labs, including a commercial kitchen/restaurant and a supermarket as well as HVAC scenarios.

The restaurant will be temperature-controlled and have remote condensing equipment in an environmental chamber ranging from -25 °F to 125 °F. “It will be a working restaurant, with people cooking and serving,” said Rajendran. “All the problems you see in a restaurant, you will see here. And in a matter of hours or days you will see the results of ideas – whether they work or not.”

The supermarket will include cases and checkouts, and be configured for a CO2 transcritical refrigeration system. The excess heat from the system will be used in heat-reclaim applications such as HVAC, hot water and snow melting. “We will evaluate when heat reclaim stops being an advantage,” said Rajendran.

To find out how to participate in an innovation workshop at the Helix, contact Rajendran at

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