The energy market is open to everyone today and the rules of the game are changing fast. Telecoms, software developers and even car manufactures all want a piece of the consumer energy market.
Incumbents are beginning to realise that the business models of yesteryear are no longer relevant and, in order to be successful in this highly competitive market, new models have to be created.
Incumbents have to react to this transformation in the market by looking for new opportunities and this is where innovation comes in, explains Ms Elena Bou (pictured), Innovation Director of KIC InnoEnergy.
Accelerating sustainable energy in Europe
KIC InnoEnergy has been in the business of solving Europe’s energy trilemma for the last five years.
The private company has been helping to create solutions that aim to reduce the cost of energy, to secure energy supply and to reduce emissions and conserve energy more efficiently.
“Our contribution to the energy trilemma is to help bring innovative solutions to the table which will help towards creating sustainable energy in Europe. Today we are the largest accelerator of sustainable energy in Europe and that gives us an extraordinary chance to have impact,” says Ms Bou.
To reach this goal, the company has created a three-part business strategy:
Education. A programme has been designed for young graduates who wish to enter the energy industry. “We want to foster their talents and prepare them to think more innovatively when approaching the industry. We want to give them the tools to approach technology, creativity and management with a different and more innovative mindset. The aim is to create future CTO’s in the industry. With this mindset, they should be equipped to tackle the problems of tomorrow.”
Innovation projects. The company brings all the different actors in the value chain together in order to face the issues that are growing in complexity. In this way, problems can be looked at from various viewpoints and collaborative (and more innovative) solutions can be designed.
Business creation services. This gives support to entrepreneurs who are brave enough to start new ventures. “Our services cater for these new entrants who are often willing to take risks, are flexible and proactive in their approach. The energy ecosystem needs this disruptive innovation and we want to support it.”
Helping new entrants overcome challenges
According to Ms Bou, when it comes to introducing innovation, the energy industry is the most difficult market to crack because it is dominated by incumbents.
To get around this, KIC InnoEnergy introduces new entrants to its network of 200 organisations in the energy industry. The company encourages innovators to network purposefully by discovering exactly what the industry needs in order to overcome various dilemmas.
“We encourage them to leave their laboratories and actually meet up with potential customers. We push them towards creating a market-oriented product. We also aim to marry up the appropriate energy industry role-player and start-up.”
Applying for finance will always be a challenge since the energy industry is capital intensive. KIC InnoEnergy gives financial support through its own network of financial actors to “help them keep moving forward.” In the last two years, 50% of their supported ventures have raised over 20 million Euros from external investors.
Another way of overcoming challenges is by creating an A-Team, says Ms Bou. “We aim to find people with a range of competencies that a new entrant may not have. We don’t look to create a superman/woman. We want to create a super team that has a longer list of capabilities when entering the market place. We look for skills that are needed to complement the innovator.”
Boosting innovation in the energy sector
In keeping with its strategy, the company has arranged a two-day international networking event which connects Europe’s leading industries and brightest minds in the field of sustainable energy.
The upcoming event, called The Business Booster, will showcase over 100 innovative solutions by entrepreneurs and start-ups.
“We want the energy industry to see what is out there. The event is a platform to initiate conversations between innovators and energy industry roleplayers. It is more than just an event – its purpose is to create sustainable relationships between start-ups and the energy industry.”
“The idea of the event is for the energy industry and start-ups to innovate together,” explains Ms Bou.
“The event will bring sustainability and value to both the start ups (by giving them access to the market) and the energy industry (access to solutions that are generally difficult to find in-house).In terms of volume and time, the event will be highly useful to both parties,” she says.
“Startups are eager to showcase innovative solutions and work with the industry to see how their innovations can help meet industry needs. This event gives the two parties the opportunity to meet and start conversations and even enter into commercial agreements.”
KIC InnoEnergy is hosting a train ride to the event which will give new entrants and energy industry representatives a chance to engage even before the event kicks off. The train, running from Benelux to Berlin, will give event attendees the opportunity to talk with field experts who will discuss changing market needs.
“It’s a time for everyone to discuss challenges and work out possible solutions enroute to the event. It will give them a chance to think about future needs and understand what innovation can bring to the table.”
To get more information on the event and to register, access the site directly here.