“We want to talk about what we have done with startups across the world but with a strong focus on Italy, specifically the Innovation Hubs in Pisa, Catania and Milan. We create the best conditions for startups to grow and develop. We can also be their first customer”
It has to be said that this partnership has produced very positive results: 6,500 startups analysed, of which 850 were in Italy, 250 projects launched, 85 in Italy, with 50 (17 in Italy) subsequently being marketed internationally. These figures were presented by Fabio Tentori, Head of Innovation Hubs and Startup Initiatives for the Group, at the Milan event.
As part of a panel discussion with StartupItalia! CEO David Casalini and managing director of Economy Up Giovanni Iozzia, Enel’s Chief Innovability® Officer Ernesto Ciorra explained that digital startups don’t so much need financing as help with developing their ideas. He also spoke about the role of our 10 Innovation Hubs which may increase in number either as the Group grows or as a result of interest in promising local ecosystems.
“I have this to say to startups: look for funding, including abroad, but don’t let it become an obsession. Most of all, look for an industrial partner like Enel”
Thanks to the OpenInnovability® crowdsourcing platform, anyone can get involved in the challenges we launched and suggest sustainable innovation projects and solutions. At the event we explained the future challenges in the sectors where we operate, and invited startups to embrace them. This spans everything from the need to develop new business models for community services to projects that reduce the impact of energy generation through efficiency and circularity, robotics and facilitating back office operations.
A co-innovator that helps its partners grow
As Ciorra explained, we see ourselves as “co-innovators”: we don’t demand an exclusive relationship, but we flank new small businesses with an approach that, in Casalini’s experience, is far from commonplace for a large Italian company. This role was recognised by all 13 startups that came to Milan with their projects: they all appreciated the resulting personal as well as professional support, the constant exchange of ideas and advice and the chance to test out products directly in working environments.
“I would like to thank Enel for developing an innovation model that is unique in the world, and which is creating a domino effect”
There were a lot of success stories taking part in the Milan event: from iGenius’ Crystal conversational AI project which has been described as “Alexa for industry” to Aton’s storage systems for residential buildings, Ermes’ anti-hacker browsers for large companies and M2D’s AI-based industrial monitoring.
Andrea Depalo’s Avanchair is a case in point. Depalo founded a startup with a group of artisans to solve a problem that had a direct impact on all of them: developing a wheelchair that people disabilities could use more independently. Ciorra explained that, as far as our Group is concerned, the Avanchair project is not a philanthropic endeavour. It may be a way of improving people’s quality of life but it is also a business that will create a new kind of mobility.
The startup products now currently being launched on the international market thanks to Enel include the Solerzia totem, a clever piece of multifunctional smart city infrastructure, and the Iuvo passive exoskeleton to help workers carry out repetitive tasks with less stress on their bodies. There are also wearable and Augmented Reality devices from WeAr, e-meters from e-labos, virtual assistants for people with chronic diseases from ADLife, energy efficiency systems for apartment buildings from Greenovation and anti-noise pollution solutions from Sound Bubble. Last but not least, we have AppQuality’s crowd testing service and Dairlab airbags which help protect workers when they fall. They are inspired by protectors for motorcyclists.
“Enel attracts startups not just because it wants to improve the world but because it looks for the practical solutions the world expects,” concluded Ciorra. Together we can find those solutions.