“Our goal is to develop a long-term relationship in which the startup becomes an Enel supplier”

Enel Innovation Hub Europe
  • To discuss the call the El Referente magazine talks with Fabio Tentori, CEO of Enel Innovation Hubs, and Fernando Sandoval, manager of Enel Innovation Hub Europe.
  • That is why they are determined to continue supporting startups and working to find innovative and disruptive solutions that change the world.

Energy multinational Enel, parent company of Spanish utility company Endesa, has launched ReShape:Innovability to build a brighter future, a global call to re-imagine the future and lead the energy transition. The aim of the call is to continue working with startups and SMEs that support the company in its efforts to meet the challenges of the global energy landscape.

To discuss the call the El Referente magazine talks with Fabio Tentori, CEO of Enel Innovation Hubs, and Fernando Sandoval, manager of Enel Innovation Hub Europe.

They both highlight the organization’s ability to constantly change direction and reinvent itself, from the outside in, and from the inside out, as well as its commitment to open innovation. This has not been paralyzed by the COVID-19 crisis, but rather strengthened. One example of this is ReShape, an initiative in line with the group’s certainty that people are the main vehicle through which solutions travel.

That is why they are determined to continue supporting startups and working to find innovative and disruptive solutions that change the world.

Those interested in participating in this project can do so by registering on the website.

What is your relationship with SMEs and startups?

Our relationship with the entrepreneurial ecosystem began in 2012 and was reinforced in 2016 when the Group launched initiatives such as the Enel Innovation Hubs, with the opening of the first Enel Innovation Hub in Israel. Thanks to the work carried out over these years, we have seen the relevance of startups and SMEs within our open innovation model and we have found a relationship model, which we have come to call Corporate Venture Client, with which we feel comfortable and which responds to the Group’s objectives.

We define ourselves as a platform for the growth of the startup, for which we offer our know-how, experts, laboratories and real environments for testing technologies, a network of partners that includes top-level venture capital funds, and above all the scope of a multinational group present in more than 30 countries and with a market of 70 million customers. It is important to stress that we do not invest in startups; our aim is to develop a long-term relationship, in which the startup becomes an Enel supplier.

How does this relationship reinforce the call?

Today we have a network of 10 Innovation Hubs present in relevant innovation ecosystems, such as Israel, Silicon Valley and Boston, as well as relevant markets for the Group in Europe and Latin America. Our Hubs carry out an active and permanent scouting of solutions developed by startups and SMEs that can respond to the challenges and needs identified by the divisions and companies of the Group.

Thanks to this coordinated effort we have activated projects with more than 300 startups and SMEs from different parts of the world. With ReShape we seek to reach all those startups and SMEs with solutions that help us solve the challenges identified, regardless of where they are located, and we want to communicate to the ecosystem our interest in continuing to develop mutually beneficial relationships with startups and SMEs.

Your aim is to re-imagine the future with them, what exactly do you expect from that tomorrow? What do you want to change?

The situation we have been through in recent months has accelerated changes in different sectors, has demonstrated the relevance of adopting future technologies and collaborative work, and has taught us the need to adapt to a “new normal”. In the case of the energy industry, the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment and the need to accelerate the energy transition and achieve a sustainable model has been clear. Enel wants to continue leading this process, which involves the deployment of large renewable facilities, the optimization of distribution networks, and the electrification of demand, which translates into the use of electricity as an energy vector in industries such as transport and a more efficient use of energy by the end customer.

What strengths validate you to lead the energy transition?

Today, half of Enel’s generation park is made up of renewable energies, thanks to which we are the largest renewable energy operator in the world, with 46 GW installed, a growth rate of 4 GW per year and the commitment to close the Group’s conventional thermal power stations by 2050. We have created Enel X, our division dedicated to the development of value-added products and services, which works on new products and services for residential and industrial customers, including self-consumption solutions, flexibility and demand management, solutions for cities and citizens, such as intelligent public lighting, or the City Analytics platform, which enables the planning of Smart City services, as well as electricity recharging infrastructure for public and private transport, always with the focus on future business models that enable better use of energy by the end customer.

Finally, we have digitalized electricity distribution networks, which allow us to manage the “backbone” of the system in an optimal and remote way, and a digitalization strategy that has led us to be the first “100% cloud based” utility company in the world. All these initiatives are part of a strategic plan that takes the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as its starting point; by Enel’s policy, each project launched is associated with one or more Sustainable Development Goals.

ReShape reflects your commitment to open innovation, why do you think this initiative is the best way to implement it?

We are going through a scenario where face-to-face events, a fundamental part for the dynamization of entrepreneurial ecosystems, have been canceled or postponed, so the ecosystems have lost a key element for networking and mutual knowledge of initiatives, as well as a moment of economic crisis in which it is more difficult to establish business relationships. ReShape is an open communication channel with entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs, in order to present our innovation challenges, learn about their solutions and reinforce our commitment to incorporating these solutions into our activities and the services we offer to our clients.

What has it been like identifying and establishing the current challenges?

Our innovation process is based on the identification of challenges that each of the innovation areas of Enel’s divisions carries out together with the different teams of the division itself. For ReShape, we have worked with the divisions to identify challenges that have arisen or that have become relevant under the current scenario, with an impact on all the countries and territories where Enel is present, and which are broad enough to accommodate different types of solutions, that is, that for one challenge more than one project can eventually be launched to address it.

Why have you decided to add more throughout the year? What criteria will you use?

We want ReShape to be a dynamic initiative and a tool with global reach to reach innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems inside and outside the countries where we are present, to disseminate our challenges and our value proposal for startups, and above all to bring to reality solutions for these challenges, in conclusion, a framework for promoting innovation at Enel and the relationship with startups. The new challenges will follow the same criteria as those already launched, relevant challenges for the current scenario, with scope throughout the Group and acting as an umbrella for the coordinated launch of projects aimed at solving them.

How will you integrate those selected into the company? What do you offer them?

The relationship with the startup is established according to the fit of the solution with the challenge, the degree of maturity of the solution, and the objectives of the division; in other words, the relationship with each startup is different and “customized”. In general terms, the relationship begins with a proof of concept or a pilot, which the Group pays to the startup; once this phase is completed, and if the results are as expected, a commercial relationship is established with the startup, with the aim of having its solution scale in the Group and the startup growing with Enel. Depending on the need of the startup or the degree of development of the solution, we can enter into co-development of the solution with the startup, for which we make physical and economic resources available, again without entering into the capital of the startup, as well as giving it access to our network of Partners, among which are venture capital funds, in case the startup has a need for investment, or companies that can help it develop skills or the necessary infrastructure to work with Enel.

What do you look for in them beyond the formal aspects? What does a company have to have for ENEL to put its trust in it?

Above all, the startup solution has to fit the Enel challenge, a “mature” solution (TRL 7 or higher) that allows us to quickly deploy, as well as a path as a team and company that gives us a guarantee of being able to establish a long-term relationship, for which the experience of the team, the milestones reached and the support they may have from agents of the ecosystem, such as investors or accelerators, and clients with whom they have already worked, are relevant.

How has your commitment to innovation and startups been strengthened as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?

Internally, the crisis caused by COVID-19 has shown us how the effort in innovation made at all levels in the Group in recent years has allowed us to be resilient, to adapt to new conditions and to be able to work remotely at all levels, minimizing physical presence in offices, plants or on the ground, and most importantly, to be able to continue supplying electricity not only to our customers but especially to critical infrastructures. We are aware of the capacity that the solutions developed by the startups can provide us, both at a technological level and as a business model, and with ReShape we want to continue with this process and advance in the transformation of our company and the electricity sector.

How will you give continuity to this project?

More than the project, our interest is focused on giving continuity to the relationship with the startups that we identify from ReShape and with which we start working. We have already received proposals to the challenges posed, and we are confident that we will receive many more before the deadline we have set for these first six challenges, which is September 30th. In any case, we are making a continuous evaluation as we receive the proposals, and at any time collaborations can be activated if there is a fit and mutual interest. At that time, we will be able to close the challenge if the corresponding division considers that it is covered.

What support do you have? Is having more agents important it in the world of entrepreneurship?

The entrepreneurial ecosystem has taught us the importance and success of collaborative environments when creating and developing new companies. We have incorporated this lesson into our innovation model, not only by being part of the ecosystems in which we participate, but also with the creation of our own global network, in which there are nearly 50 venture capital funds, open innovation initiatives, such as venture builders, open innovation accelerators and consultants, universities and technology centers, and a network of 20 laboratories, both our own and those of third parties. With the support of this network we can not only identify the most relevant startups, but above all contribute to their growth and development of the relationship with Enel.

What are your hopes for 2020 and Reshape?

Something that we all want, to manage to overcome together the health and economic crisis and, above all, the confidence crisis caused by the COVID-19. We sincerely hope that ReShape will help us with this purpose; that it will be a tool that will allow us to generate business opportunities with the entrepreneurial ecosystem that will have a positive effect on the future of the countries in which Enel is present.


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