Innovation and Sustainability are key elements in Enel’s strategy and business culture, as it applies cutting-edge models, methods and technologies, in order to offer an outstanding service to its customers, encouraging access to energy, social development, while respecting the environment and the communities where it operates. Enel has translated this approach into Innovability, the combination of Innovation and Sustainability.
The Group’s medium/long-term innovation strategy, the approval and monitoring of projects, the selection of start-ups with a high impact on the business, and the approval of key partnerships are the main duties of the Group’s Innovation Committee, which consists of the Chief Executive Officer and the heads of the main corporate divisions. Enel’s Open Innovation ecosystem is open to anyone with the desire and interest to make a contribution, whether they are industrial partners, start-ups, institutions, customers, private individuals and, of course, the people who work at Enel. In 2015 the Enel Group invested 76 million euro in research and innovation through over 250 projects, involving all the elements along the whole value chain, from conventional power generation to renewables, from smart grids to energy efficiency, from electric transport to energy storage.
In 2015 the Group surpassed 100 partnership agreements for innovation with leading companies across a broad range of issues. An alliance was signed with Nissan to develop an innovative Vehicle to Grid (V2G) system, which allows vehicle owners and energy users to use their cars as real “mobile stations” with the ability to accumulate and put back the energy that is not used into the grid. In addition, as regards renewables, a memorandum of understanding was signed with Enea to collaborate on technologies for the environment and the climate, with a particular focus on new generation photovoltaic technology and electricity generation from wave motion. As for new storage technologies, Enel and Tesla finalized an agreement to develop new business linked to residential storage in the countries where the Group is present, starting from South Africa, where Enel recently launched an innovative offer on the retail market. The collaboration with Tesla then extends to industrial aspects, with the intention to test the integration of Tesla’s stationary energy storage systems in Enel Green Power’s wind and photovoltaic plants.
During 2015 the Group also analyzed 1,200 start-ups, launching collaborations with 13 of them in the various countries where Enel operates. Among the more established start-ups are Smart-I, Athonet Smartgrid and I-Em which are engaged in control services for urban mobility and safety, energy efficiency in public lighting, micro-grid management, energy management services and, finally, seeking solutions for the problems of energy production plants located in remote areas where traditional operators do not provide adequate cover.
Besides this, in June 2015 the INCENSe (INternet Cleantech ENablers Spark) project ended, which is financed by the European Union to support the most promising startups with an incubation program. In particular 42 start-ups were selected, each of which received a non-repayable grant of 150 thousand euro and a 6-month incubation program offered by the partners of the INCENSe Consortium which include Endesa, Accelerace (the largest incubator in North Europe) and Funding Box (a platform dedicated to public funding).
Enel intends to attract the best international start-ups, also by forging partnerships with venture capital funds and institutions which support innovation. This has proven a winning formula for all the parties involved: the start-ups can count on financial and industrial support, which increases their growth opportunities, while Enel and the funds can unite their resources and skills both in the scouting stage and in the development and marketing of new products and services. At the end of 2015 a portal dedicated to start-ups was launched with aim of increasing awareness of the collaborative projects that Enel is working on with them and creating a contact point between the Group and the business ecosystem.
Enel has also developed various channels through which it is possible to propose innovative projects, including the “Endesa 2244” channel in Spain and the “Join the Race” scouting channel in Enel Green Power, for various issues relating to renewables. The Open Innovation platform “Endesa Energy Challenges” has launched “Endesa Datathon”, to develop new added-value offers for the Spanish market through the use of new Big Data methodologies, and “Endesa Hackathon”, during which 40 developers, programmers and designers collaborated to develop solutions to optimize energy consumption.
Another key element in the Open Innovation strategy is the involvement of all the staff at Enel.
The involvement of employees in the innovation process is encouraged at every level, from simply putting forward innovative ideas for crowdsourcing, to taking part in corporate entrepreneurship initiatives, such as the Enel Innovation World Cup and the Inspire Empreendedores Program, which were both launched during 2015. The latter is promoted by the Brazilian subsidiary Pratil and 114 people took part, putting forward over 80 projects; currently 4 business initiatives are in the incubator and market testing stage. The over 800 participants at the Enel Innovation World Cup can use 20% of their working hours to create, develop and, finally, test innovative business models.
Innovation also means the ability to experience and learn from inevitable failures. For this reason Enel launched the “My Best Failure” Project, an online platform which lets everyone share their “best” failures and what they learnt from the experience, thus creating a common knowledge base to drive innovation, and encouraging everyone to experiment and try something new. In 2015 over 70 examples from people around the world were published.
Enel Idea Factory proposes to transform work places into laboratories for ideas and to promote integration among the different company units and openness to the outside, supporting dialogue among a number of interlocutors, inside and outside the company. In 2015, 18 ideas sessions were held involving 381 people from Enel and 81 people from outside the Group (including institutions, associations, suppliers and, in general, managers from sectors other than the electricity sector). 312 ideas were generated and 17 of these led to 5 initiatives undertaken during the year (for example, the monthly publication of Origination Guidelines by Business Development Unit of Global Generation or the award by Enel Green Power of the tender to build a photovoltaic plant in Brazil).
In order to provide a focus for relationships with universities and research centers, global leaders (such as MIT, Berkeley, IIT) and some specialist institutions (for example Sant’Anna and PoliMi) have been selected, with which the Enel Foundation is structuring strategic partnerships.
The weekly newsletter Innovation Foresight has been launched worldwide, to spread knowledge of the latest news and trends in the sector of energy companies.
The Electric Wire is, on the other hand, the monthly newsletter, which presents stakeholders with some of the most interesting initiatives which the Enel Group is undertaking worldwide.