The Enel Innovation World Cup, the internal competition launched one year ago by Enel’s Innovation & Sustainability department, gave Enel staff from all countries the chance to experience managerial life: promoting risk acceptance and developing businesses related to the energy sector. Today anyone can be an entrepreneur. Startups are developing in record time, bringing new energy and dynamism through a process that helps to speed up the pace with which new products and services are launched and testing them directly with the final client.
For Enel the era of “Corporate Entrepreneurship”, a formula already tested successfully in Silicon Valley, has begun and it is destined to reinforce our company’s position as one of the world’s five leading engines of innovation. This cutting-edge role has been acknowledged by Fortune magazine. It is no coincidence that the strategy adopted is the same as that trialled in California to encourage the creation of young successful businesses. Usually the people in a company are accustomed to performing roles dictated by others, but thanks to this initiative, they can experience making the decisions and managing the entire productive process alone or together with a team. Developing innovative ideas, testing them and responding to client feedbacks on a step-by-step basis means that the product that arrives on the market will already be in line with the customers’ expectations, while the process requires less management time compared with big companies. In this way, the teams are able to explore the market through the creation of start-ups as a deliberate part of Enel’s strategy. The principle is summed up by the slogan “Exploring the future business today”.
“Encouraging entrepreneurial spirit, creating new skills, investing directly in our employees to generate new business: this is the Enel that we want and that we have!”
Ernesto Ciorra, Head of Innovation & Sustainability
A new way of working
The winners were offered various forms of support, such as training in the Lean Startup methodology, assistance from an “innovation mentor” for each country, access to startup incubators (in Italy and Brazil) and a specific sponsor for every team. However, the key for a big company like Enel has been the possibility for the teams to dedicate time to the development of the business. In the 18 months established for the development of projects, the working groups have been able to dedicate 20 - 50% of their regular working hours, while the drive and passion of some of those involved has led them to work on their projects also during their own time.
The Innovation & Sustainability department of the Holding coordinated the project, establishing dialogue with the various stakeholders involved, in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the various phases.
Through the adoption of the “Lean Startup” method, the work aimed to begin by creating a simple base product (minimum viable product), thus saving on production costs and reducing the overall times involved developing the products. Thanks to the Enel Innovation World Cup, creation has become co-creation. This concept is comparable to unveiling to the public a sculpture that has a defined form but is still in the process of being perfected. With the help of the future buyer, interventions can be made to the features in order that the end product is perfectly in line with the customer’s requirements. Furthermore, such a process avoids the excessive use of resources.
“Being able to fulfil your entrepreneurial dream can be a source of great satisfaction. Experimenting, not giving up when faced with difficulties and freeing yourself from the fear of failure is the best way to move closer to achieving it”
Daniela Ferraro, Senior Innovation
There were 880 entrants for the first edition and just four months after the launch, 98 new business proposals had been received from all corners of the Enel Group, 36 of these were selected, to be then cut to 22 projects in May 2016. They were then put through a regional selection process by a commission made up of directors from each Enel country, earning the opportunity to develop the businesses over the following 18 months and, in some cases, also to receive finance.
This international initiative saw Chile and Spain emerge with five winners each, Italy with four projects, followed by Colombia, Brazil and Russia with two projects each, Argentina and United States both with one project.
The winning projects
Some of the more interesting projects were those that could be launched immediately onto the market. Among these, Brazil perfected a portable battery that was interchangeable in various points of the city, and also a system of mobile mapping for detecting problems with the distribution network. In Chile an integrated consultancy service was developed for SMEs to encourage the substitution of obsolete electrical equipment, while also energy plans were designed to improve heating in winter and the use of air conditioning in summer. Columbia came up with an online payment channel that reduces the risks relating to client transactions in addition to a rechargeable smart card in pesos, through which it is possible to obtain energy in any point of a city. Italy created a crowdfunding platform for the adoption of solar panels, and also a service to gift and monitor self-produced energy as well as a system for recharging public vehicles similar to that used for drones on the move. Russia came up with an electric car-sharing service, while in Spain they focused on trading second hand wind power technology and a database for sharing electrical equipment. Finally, the United States will complete a portable system of energy storage in order to enable the sale of energy during peaks in seasonal consumption.
At the end of the first edition, the Enel Innovation World Cup has been proved doubly useful in relation to the goals of the company: creating international discussion to promote creativity and the experimentation that follows in addition to a managerial style centred around “risk-taking”. An entrepreneurial approach in order to encourage the culture of innovation in Enel.
Two synergic objectives achieved by an initiative that is sure to be repeated.