On 12 May the European Innovation Council organised its first online Corporate Day, with Enel, the global energy company. Originally planned as a physical event to be held in March, it was fully digitalised for the convenience of the participating SMEs and corporate representatives. 33 EIC-backed SMEs had the chance to pitch their innovations in the field of renewable energy, smart cities and grid solutions, among others. Over 40 Enel representatives took part in listening to the pitches and scouting projects.
“It’s a pleasure for me to host all of you during the second EIC Corporate Day with Enel. The first time we met physically, today we connect online to make the most of this day”. With those words, Fabio Tentori, Head of Enel Innovation Hubs, opened the first online EIC Corporate Day.
Enel, the biggest private producer of renewable energy and largest power network in the world, opened 10 innovation hubs worldwide in the past years and is putting a lot of effort in scouting innovations outside of its company.
“We praise ourselves as curious of new technologies and we get in touch with innovators and start-ups, regardless whether online or physically” Tentori said.
Bindi Karia, EIC advisory board member, praised Enel for being a leader and opening the first online EIC Corporate Day “What is happening today with Enel is something we would like to see happen all over Europe. We are trying to create one innovation community all over Europe, where corporate should be able to tap into and do business with those start-ups they find interesting”.
Scouting during COVID-19
Many Enel representatives took part in the event. Gioacchino Bellia, Head of Open Innovation and Startups of Global Power Generation, was one of them: “My goal for today was to scout and look for the most promising solutions coming from SMEs, in order to accelerate our path in the energy transition toward a sustainable 100% renewable generation. It’s part of our continuous scouting process for of new solutions.” Alessandro Barone, manager of Milan Innovation Lab of Global Infrastructure & Networks: “This is a perfect opportunity to know more start-ups. We’re looking forward to taking a deep dive in their solutions and look for pilots”.
Antonio Bondi, manager of Enel Innovation Hub Italy, noted that COVID-19 accelerated the digitalisation and the need to organise events like this one: “We address the scouting to the new needs that emerged from this situation. To join the EIC Corporate Day is a great opportunity, both for me as well as for Enel, to connect to Europe’s most innovative companies.” Alessandro Barone added that these events are useful to ‘turn on the bulb’: “It is a great way to say “attention, these SMEs are very interesting”.
With over 150 SMEs applying to pitch, 33 of which were selected, Enel made full use of the EIC portfolio, an important advantage for them. Mr. Bondi highlighted the “robust technologies, business case and a guarantee from the EIC pre-screening”, already with the follow-up in mind: “we have seen plenty of business opportunities. After this day we will implement them one-to-one and I am sure that a few collaborations are in the pipeline”.
Keeping the ball rolling
The 33 SMEs pitched a wide array of innovations. Irene McAleese, from British SeeSense was pleased that the event continued in an online format: “I am pleased it was not cancelled and we can go ahead and make use of technology, keep the ball rolling.“ Alicia Fuentes from Spanish Quaternium saw some added benefit to online sessions: “You can see everyone’s companies, it is a more direct way to target people from Enel. Once you are there in real life, you do not know who is who. That is definitively easier now.”
Connecting with corporations can be a challenging affair, especially in these times without physical events. Manuel Noya from Linknovate moved the company back from the US to Spain after receiving EIC-funding. The last years he had several opportunities to attend Corporate Days. Having these events online now is a great opportunity for him and Linknovate: “We should have more online opportunities like this, corporate representatives are hard to reach. These are the early stages of online events but they are comfortable and easy to attend, so why not do more of this? For us its clearly valuable.”
Mrs. Fuentes pitched a hybrid drone to Enel representatives: “It is really useful to get out there and let corporates know who we are.” Mrs. McAleese pitched a circular business model that can help Enel and SeeSense but also society and cyclist as a whole: “To be able to participate in an event like this is incredibly useful. It is critical for us to embed our solutions in a business model and go from being a prototype into a sustainable business model with commercial opportunities.”
The EIC Corporate days are more than meets the eye. Besides an opportunity to meet corporate representatives, the participants also get the opportunity to practice their pitches with the EIC business coaches. Mrs. McAleese found the pitching training very useful: “ It is not just about showing up to the day itself, loads of work takes place behind the scene. Take for instance the pitch training, how we craft our message. You think you know, but it is very useful to have a fresh person look at your pitch. Thinking about your value proposition, in the context of your customer and craft something fresh.” Mrs. Fuentes added that the financial aspect was of course important, but the other services are very useful as well: “The finances helped us to grow and gather a great team. But we definitely benefit from the coaching that takes place before the events.”
Want to have to opportunity to meet with Europe’s largest corporates, hone your pitching skills with the EIC business coaches and meet with peers? The EIC hosts multiple corporate days per month, for the moment fully online. Applications run through the EIC Community. Please keep an eye on our calendar and don’t forget to update your profile in the EIC Community!