Powering the energy revolution with our startup network
Openness, research and innovation are at the centre of our Group’s development strategy which, through the Innovation Hub network in Milan, Pisa and Catania in Italy, launches energy revolution-related challenges, collects ideas and develops solutions by collaborating with both startups and SMEs.
This approach has enabled us to create a real ecosystem and we brought together its members in Milan on November 27 for the “Leading the Energy Revolution” event organised by Enel Startup. Its aim was to help apply our Open Innovation approach to the newest and most promising Italian companies we are supporting.
A startup village
Le Village is a 16th century former convent in Milan that a year ago was converted to a startup hub by Crédit Agricole, in part as a result of our support. Today, it is home to around 30 such businesses with 180 people working in the hub’s spaces each day. So Le Village felt like the perfect place to reiterate our commitment to supporting innovation and partnering with small companies involved in projects that are both visionary and useful to improving the planet and the quality of life on it.
This was explained by Head of Enel Italy Carlo Tamburi, who stressed that one of the key factors in our business model’s success is that sustainability combined with innovation lie at its heart. It’s a two-pronged approach that also supports our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan.
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.
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.
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.