In line with the Open Power vision, the Group promotes an open innovation approach to face the challenges of the energy transition. This approach is based on sharing, which enables challenges to be faced by connecting all areas of the Company with startups, industrial partners, small and medium-sized enterprises, research centers, universities and crowdsourcing platforms. Collaborations are born within the Open Innovation ecosystem, which in 2017 was renamed “Open Innovability” as Enel strongly believes that Innovation and Sustainability are an inseparable pairing.
2017 was the year of the launch of the “Open Innovability” online crowdsourcing platform (openinnovability. enel.com), aimed at the outside world and the Company’s people who want to contribute to the development of business with innovative and sustainable solutions and transform proposals into concrete projects. More specifically, Enel proposes “call for projects” and “challenges”, many of which are directly inspired by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): “Water as a way to fuel development”, “Education as a global right”, “Clear the way for clean energy”, “Turning the tide on climate change”, and “Energy for those in need”
Other ‘challenges’ respond to specific business needs, such as those relating to renewable energies (“Technologies for renewable generation”) or to new technologies (“Development goes online”), as well as proposals aimed at inclusive development (“Ideas for social progress”, “Growing the economy and job quality”, and “Open minds to the future”). Open Innovability offers a space to anyone who thinks they have an interesting contribution to offer, even if they do not respond to any of the “challenges’’ active at the time (“I have a project” section). Enel’s focus is not only aimed at partnerships with large companies, but also at collaborations with startups and top small and medium-sized enterprises. In two quarters, more than 6,000 users registered on the site and about 600 project proposals were received for the 21 challenges.
Enel has about 200 innovation projects1 and124 innovation partnership agreements both globally and locally. In addition to Enel’s ‘traditional’ activities, such as renewables and conventional generation, the Company has promoted the development of new business in the fields of e-mobility, recharging infrastructures, energy efficiency, Industrial IoT (Internet of Things), smart homes, smart grids and smart meters. In particular, 43 collaboration agreements including 7 Global Partnerships, were launched in 2017, including one with Intesa Sanpaolo, which aims to support the innovation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and promote the development of the circular economy and Open Innovation. In addition to receiving technical and economic support from Enel, SMEs and startups that collaborate with Enel on innovation projects will also be able to take advantage of financial support from the network of innovation experts. On the subject of electric mobility, the EVA+ initiative was launched with Verbund, Renault, Nissan, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi (see the “Electric mobility” box), and a collaboration with Nissan started in December 2015. Lastly, also in 2017, Enel and Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop innovative joint projects in the transport and energy sectors.
In 2017, 3 Innovation Hubs were launched (San Francisco, Moscow and Madrid) and 1 Innovation Lab in Catania, bringing the total number of ecosystems to 7 and expanding Enel’s global presence in the best innovation ecosystems. The Innovation Hubs enable a new model of collaboration with startups and small businesses in which the Group provides its knowledge and experience, testing infrastructures and a global network of partners to develop and adopt innovative technological solutions and new business models. During the year, thanks to the Innovation Hub network, 12 bootcamps were organized on different technological areas such as IoT, smart home, cyber security, electric mobility, drones, etc. This allowed the Group’s Business Lines to evaluate more than 100 new solutions and business models. The first Innovation Lab was also inaugurated in Catania to encourage research and innovation in the renewable energy sector through the creation of a technology campus and an accelerator that will host local, national and international startups, small enterprises, universities and research centers. The first call for startups on renewable technologies was met with more than 200 companies, and 5 projects were selected to be developed in 2018. In general, in 2017 the Group evaluated more than 1,000 proposals and initiated about 50 collaborations with startups and small enterprises.
These collaborations and intellectual exchanges gave rise to cutting edge innovative solutions, which also led to the filing of specific patents. An example related to occupational health and safety is the fabric for gloves to be used in low voltage work, the result of a collaboration between Global Thermal Generation and the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), which led to the co-ownership of a patent and an innovative agreement for the joint management of the associated rights.
Enel developed the partnership program We4U, World energy 4 Universities, with national and international universities and research centers, with the aim of maintaining a constant, multidisciplinary dialogue focused on the challenges of the energy transition, with 24 projects initiated in 2017. The partners include the Politecnico Milano, Politecnico Torino, Luigi Bocconi University, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, IIT, Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico (RSE), UC Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Universidad Pontificia Comillas and, more recently, Columbia University and Strathmore University.
The Group’s medium-long-term innovation strategy is approved in a meeting chaired by the Chief Executive Officer attended by the directors of the company Functions. Each Business Line approves and monitors the projects for which it is responsible by means of Innovation Committees, while cross-functional projects are approved by a committee headed by the director of the Innovability Function, which is composed, among others, by the innovation managers of all the Business Lines.
1 The decrease in the number of Innovation projects compared to the previous year (300 projects in 2016) is mainly due to the rationalization of the new e-Solutions Business Line downstream of the confluence of most projects in its project portfolio previously managed by the market areas of each country. Innovation project means an innovative solution identified through testing that creates added value for the Company, can be replicated and meets a specific need. Innovation can be in the customers served, in how they are served, in the type of product or service they are offered, in a new combination of the previous points, i.e. in a new business model, or in a technological solution applied at a point along the value chain. The idea or proposal for an innovative solution becomes a project following a formal approval to proceed with the test and following the allocation of a project budget. In case of approval, there is the possibility that the commercial or large-scale adoption of the validated solution can follow the test.