Open Innovation Without Borders

Published on Friday, 12 February 2016

In the past, innovation was created and developed almost exclusively within large organisations. In the age of digital technology, this oligopolistic world no longer exists. The producers of knowledge have multiplied, and the process of bringing a new product or service to market through an independent management has become complicated. And in some cases, unnecessary.

Innovation in today's global marketplace means searching outside of one’s own company, forming strategic alliances to develop innovative products and services that meet customers’ ever-changing needs. Enel has therefore adopted an Open Innovation model, based on a paradigm of openness from and toward the ‘outside’, ranging from start-ups to large companies, universities and research centres, to projects by individual innovators. What counts isn’t the size of the organisation you choose to work with, but the quality of the projects that are being proposed.

With this idea in mind, we have built an ecosystem of venture capital funds, universities, accelerators, other businesses and institutions, where start-ups find everything they need to grow and become successful, by integrating their projects into our commercial and industrial activities. The goal is to create a real “innovation factory” that fosters ongoing collaborations, thus benefiting businesses and communities alike.

We therefore decided to launch a start-up accelerator programme in Israel, a country with such a high concentration of innovative companies, that is is often referred to as the “Silicon Wadi”, similar to the Silicon Valley in California. Each year up to eight start-up companies will be chosen to participate in the incubator programme, to be headquartered in Tel Aviv, receiving custom technological support over a six-month period.

The initiative was announced in London during our Start-Up Day, a meeting on start-ups and venture capital funds held in the “We Work” offices, Europe's largest co-working space. The meeting was attended by, among others, Karim El Malki (CEO and Founder of Athonet Smartgrid), Easwaran Navaratnam (Managing Partner & Co-Founder of 01 Ventures) and Alisée de Tonnac (Founder of SeedStar World). Among the main topics of discussion were big data, predictive maintenance, the internet of things, statistics and clean tech.

‘We are working with start-ups in London, Madrid, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and all the countries in which we operate, and we are now also working with start-ups in Israel. There are plenty of innovators outside of Enel. We must be perceived as an innovative company, but it is very important to involve individuals who do not work for us in our activities,’ stated Enel’s Head of Innovation and Sustainability Ernesto Ciorra on the sidelines of the London event.

The new incubator will select start-ups through an open call process. The most interesting projects will have access to Enel laboratories, our best experts and a customer base of over 60 million. We will therefore establish a presence in one of the most advanced innovation ecosystems in the world, leveraging venture capital funds, universities and a collaboration with the Office of the “Chief Scientist” of Israel's Ministry of the Economy.

The Israeli acceleration programme will follow the example of other successful initiatives that have already been launched: Energy Start in Latin America and INCENSe, a programme promoted by the European Commission, thanks to which 42 European and Israeli start-ups will receive up to 150 thousand euros to develop their projects.