Digital transformation is taking over a large spectrum of industries, with the integration of digital technology into all areas of business, fundamentally changing how companies operate and deliver value to customers.
In the vanguard of this transformation is Free Electrons, the first global energy accelerator. Applications results reinforce Free Electrons positioning as the world-leading innovation platform for energy-related startups, the current edition had 481 applications, with 90% new entries.
We spoke with Manuel Tânger, Head of Open-Innovation at Beta-i, about how Free Electrons incorporates innovation methodologies to bring innovation to the sector.
What are the main innovation methodologies Beta-i is bringing to Free Electrons’ innovation framework?
Free Electrons is a program focused on creating the best conditions for the most innovative utilities to work with startups in order to innovate. This sounds easy, but it’s quite hard. To facilitate this, we focus very heavily on making pilots happening as a way to test profusely and ultimately get to the coveted deals between utilities and startups. Experimentation is, I would say, the core methodological concept of Free Electrons. But to do this, these pilots need to be thought up, designed, implemented and followed-up on. We, as Beta-i, have to create the moments and the mindset needed for both utilities and startups to think creatively on how they may work together and maybe do something that no one has ever done before. In particular, we use a “pilot canvas” that helps startups map out possible pilots to then be analyzed, discussed and fine-tuned with the utilities.
How do you build a framework that adds value to both startups and utilities?
When interests are fully aligned, then naturally what is good for startups is good for utilities. Utilities want to innovate and bring to market the best and newest offer possible, which generally involves new technology and business models. On the other hand, startups want a large audience to their niche product/service to be able to scale and improve their high performing product even more. Free Electrons makes this possible by design.
What are the key elements/moments in it?
It’s a long process from the partners’ needs assessment to the demo day, but one of the critical moments is the Bootcamp – which is happening right now in Dublin. It’s where startups and partners’ meet for the first time and try to look at the future together – and then pilot a solution for this future. It all happens in one intense week, and it has to work from then onwards.
By putting into contact these startups and quickening the speed of their scaling through collaboration with large global utilities, Free Electrons is, without question, accelerating this transformation with great benefit to all!
How do you think Free Electrons is helping re-shaping the energy sector worldwide?
The energy sector is going through a massive transformation with the consolidation and application of new technology. It is now cheaper to produce energy by solar than any other mean. Batteries are almost at a price point to make it competitive to store in the production luls at scale. Micro-production is now turning users into producers and contributors to the network. Electric vehicles are huge now and upcoming energy consumer but also batteries to be used as network balancing. Smart meters are gathering very fine-tuned user data that is propelling the appearance of new business models due to the data. This same data helps utilities and users maximize energy usage while minimizing the cost and also allows utilities to reach out to new spaces that go beyond energy and into services. These are a few of the highlights of the tectonic shift happening right now in the energy market. And startups are working on all of them! With the focus and zeal characteristic of modern tech entrepreneurs. By putting into contact these startups and quickening the speed of their scaling through collaboration with large global utilities, Free Electrons is, without question, accelerating this transformation with great benefit to all! To us, normal energy consumers, to startups that scale to grown-ups and utilities that capitalize on being first to embrace this change.