Innovation learnings: Interview with Margarida López

Continuing with the activity program of the Open Innovation Cycle 2021 of Som-Inn Port, we have incorporated a new initiative that we call “Innovation Learnings” with the aim of inspiring the ecosystem of good innovation practices applied to other organizations. We will invite different people who can inspire us to continue innovating and understand the best way to adapt innovation to the reality of our organization and our work.

We start this initiative with an interview to Margarida López, head of Innovation at Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona TMB.




Margarida López is Telecommunications Engineer, EMPA (Executive Master in Public Administration) from Esade and trained in innovation at IESE. Mother of one child.




Good morning Margarida. We are delighted to have you here with us and we want to thank you for your willingness to participate in this new initiative.

Good morning and glad to participate!

Explain us what has been your professional career to reach the position of Head of Innovation at TMB?

I am a training engineer and I started in different companies of the sector (TE, Enditel, Ericsson) managing telecommunications infrastructure projects. Afterwards I worked at SENER where I had my first contact with TMB from the construction management of Line 9 of the subway.

When I had the opportunity to start working at TMB in 2010 it was clear to me that the public sector was where I wanted to work, offering services to the citizens and managing them from an organization that, like yours, is guided by principles where the service vocation is at the forefront, which is a priority for me. I started as Project Manager of ticketing projects but in 2016 after attending an international fair I had my first contact with the world of innovation and when I came back it was clear to me that I had to articulate a transversal innovation model within the company, I was lucky that my bosses believed in the proposal and after several intermediate positions I got to lead the innovation area.

What does it mean to you to be an innovation manager? How would you define your role?

I always say that our area acts as a facilitator of innovation processes within TMB. I lead the innovation strategy together with the innovation committee and I have to help innovation “happen” and not as an isolated event but as a continuous and sustained process over time.

How have you structured innovation at TMB? What are the roles associated with innovation?

There is a small area dedicated 100% to innovation, a governance model formed by the Innovation Committee (where the most important areas of the company are represented) and some tactical execution groups that we call “Innovation Task Forces”, which are also multidisciplinary. At the same time we have created a transforming figure, the “Innovation Agents”, employees with different profiles who have been trained in innovation and who have to help spread the culture of innovation within the company. The innovation model at TMB is decentralized, all areas innovate with the support of the innovation area.

How do you think the process of integrating innovation and combining it with the daily tasks of your team has been? How do you manage what we call the “innovator’s dilemma”?

 We manage it with effort and using the tools at our disposal. In my area there is no problem because we are 100% dedicated to this task, but with the rest of the areas it is difficult to find the necessary resources to dedicate to these issues. We are still starting the whole model and until we obtain tangible value through innovation we have to fight to get the rest of the organization to see this need. It must be said that we are a public transport operator and therefore the priority is to provide the service in the best possible conditions every day, even though there is an increasing awareness of the importance of innovation, the fact of articulating the innovation committee with first line managers has helped a lot in this task.

Explain to us what have been the main difficulties in this process of integrating innovation as a culture within the organization? How do you promote the innovative DNA?

We have worked a lot on communication and training at all levels of the company. As I said before, the role of the innovation agent (we currently have 40) is essential to help innovation concepts reach all areas. We also have a collaborative platform for intrapreneurship where all employees have access and can keep up to date with the innovation initiatives we have underway.


Culture does not change overnight, but we are making an effort to ensure that these new ways of doing things gradually take hold.



What have been the main satisfactions or milestones related to innovation at TMB?

For me, having the full support of the Management Committee and being able to activate the innovation committee has been the most significant milestone in advancing the process. Management support is essential if innovation is to be taken seriously and begin to bear fruit.

More specifically, we are very proud of the first intrapreneurship process that TMBinnova has launched for all TMB employees. It was associated with the challenge “Station of the Future” and it has been a process of 6 months of work that has resulted in very interesting projects and above all with a high participation of employees from all levels, mainly from the base, which is what we wanted. There has been a lot of enthusiasm and effort from all participants and team members who have made it possible.

What advice would you give to Som-Inn Port’s innovation agents who want to continue integrating innovation into the work they do every day?

To remain active and not lose the exploratory capacity that is essential to detect opportunities for innovation.  They must maintain their enthusiasm for innovation processes and not let the “idea killers” nullify their ability to propose good initiatives that will offer future value for the company. And be brave, we know that risk aversion is one of the main obstacles to innovation.

And finally, explain to us what has been the main innovation learning that you have obtained since you started this journey at TMB?

Innovation is adaptive… more than any other process in the company, therefore, a strategy that initially seemed good will surely have to change according to the circumstances of the environment and the internal reality of the company, this is not painful but is part of the natural path of innovation, the important thing is not to fail and to find the formula so that the wheel continues to spin.

Marga, thank you very much, we hope that your work keeps inspiring others to keep innovating. We have learned a lot!

May 19, 2021

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