Startup Trek: the future of innovation

Published on Thursday, 14 June 2018

“We must continue to innovate without stopping, because without innovation we cannot hope to survive. But survival is also ensured by sustainability”

– Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability Officer at Enel

It isn’t just a question of responsibility, there’s also an element of simple cause and effect. “If your activities damage the environment,” Ciorra went on, “they harm people, too, and those who today are your clients will soon become your enemies, so safeguarding the environment is an imperative, as is innovation, always bearing in mind the people this innovation is intended for, so that technology retains a human dimension.”

All this, he explained, can be done better and more rapidly with the help of startups. “For example, we constructed the first combined solar-geothermal plant in the USA with the help of three startups. This was truly revolutionary, and we succeeded after one of the USA’s main centres of technological research had declared it was impossible. That’s why we’re here today, and why just over a year ago we opened one of our Innovation Hubs in Skolkovo, and it’s already starting to produce results. There’s great talent here, great passion, it’s a crucible for brilliant minds.”

“Our Skolkovo Innovation Hub is an ecosystem made up not only of startups, but also universities and companies. Together they form an enormous reserve of technology and creativity”

– Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability Officer at Enel

From Russia with innovation

As Pasquale Terracciano, Italy’s ambassador in Moscow, reminded us, the technology park on the edge of Moscow is also something special for our company: “There is a natural affinity between our two countries, and we would like to use this as a springboard for launching the Made with Italy concept. It is extremely helpful, as well as a source of pride for Italy, that a company of Enel’s calibre has decided to open its Innovation Hub here in Skolkovo, to attract home-grown Russian talent.”

Ciorra’s words were echoed by Fabio Tentori, Head of Innovation Hubs for our Group: “Our dream is to produce green energy for everyone throughout the world, and we can’t do that on our own. That’s why being here is so important – it gives us the opportunity to communicate our needs in real time to the entire innovation community.”

“Russia is fertile terrain, it has some extraordinarily clever people, especially in mathematics”

– Fabio Tentori, Head of Innovation Hubs at Enel

And this is the place where we can find startups with the ideas and technology that interest us, the companies we can help to grow until they become our partners.

Technological innovation inspired by collaboration

In the context of startups, during the two days in Moscow the Enel X stand was the setting for the launch in Russia of the new JuiceBox supercharge e-car battery. This was developed four years ago through a crowdfunding initiative by a US startup that our Group later acquired. As well as providing rapid recharge times (around two hours for a full charge, four times the speed currently available on the market), JuiceBox can be managed via a smartphone using the dedicated App, while connection to the digital network enables dynamic charging during off-peak electricity pricing periods. “I’m sure that we now have the best product on the market,” said Sergey Kiselev. He’s very familiar with the JuiceBox, as until 2016 he was part of the small US startup that designed it. When he speaks nowadays, though, he does so in the name of our Group, because in the meantime he has become CEO of Enel X Russia. If the startup had not encountered our Group, who knows where this example of technological excellence would have ended up? One thing is certain, though – it would not have remained on the shelf for long.

“Competition is a wonderful thing. Nowadays there are startups capable of wrongfooting the big multinationals,” said Frank Salzgeber of the European Space Agency. “We have to make them our allies, or someone else will beat us to it.”