Innogy SE is a large European energy company. But it’s actually been split off from the even larger German energy company, RWE. RWE decided to separate its conventional energy business, centred on coal, gas and nuclear, from its renewables and sales business.
Innogy SE is the renewables company that resulted from the split. It builds power plants that produce energy from renewables, and sells gas and electricity to consumers. For this reason, it’s widely seen as the “green” power company that grew out of RWE. However, it is also doing some quite surprising things in the tech startup and disruptive technology world which we’ll take a look at below.
The company’s investment strategy is very outward looking, with a lot of investment in renewables overseas, including the United States. For example, it is working to help California and some other states in the US, achieve zero emissions for new vehicles. It has set up a US subsidiary, eMobility, to do this.
Obviously, the future looks bright for the business, and in March 2018, Eon, the German utility giant, launched a bid to acquire the company. The eventual company structures being proposed, look as though they will even more clearly demarcate the renewables business, separating it from the remaining fossil fuels businesses. Talks on this continue.
Unafraid of Innovation
Many people think of large German companies as very conservative. But this is one company that welcomes new ideas. We’ve seen several examples of the company’s willingness to engage with new technologies.
To take one example, it has set up a network of charging stations for electric cars. OK, so that’s interesting and worthwhile, but it’s hardly revolutionary – until you hear that the whole thing is powered by blockchain and that payments will be managed using Ethereum. And that it’s the brainchild of an Innogy start-up called Share&Charge that is out to revolutionise and democratise the e-mobility market.
The customer will actually pay in euros, and the app will then use blockchain and Ethereum to record and manage the transactions. Blockchain smart contracts will be used to track and manage the business and administration side.
Innogy Innovation Hub Looking For Partners
This is one of the ideas that has been flowing out of the company’s Innovation Hub. The hub is actively looking for startups to partner with.
These can be start-ups that are just getting going, but have a great idea. Or they can be businesses that are up and trading, but need help and investment to scale up the business. In fact, the company is looking for new businesses in Europe that it can help to go global. So what kind of start-ups are they interested in?
The focus areas are:
– Decentralised business models based around blockchain, artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things
– Businesses that have ideas that deliver smart and connected services, in an innovative way
– Ideas that will use digital technology to disrupt the established world of energy supply
– Cyber ventures – businesses that are using disruptive new business models to do things differently in the world of computing and IT
All of this explains the company’s involvement as a gold partner in January’s 2017 Unconvention meeting.
Creative disruption encouraged
The meeting’s focus was how to help European startups to go global. Unconvention is a high-powered meeting place, both for the potential disruptors of the future, and for the established businesses and organisations that can help them launch worldwide. From smart cities, to women entrepreneurs, to workshops on design thinking, to prizes for best drone application, this was a brilliant synthesis of forward looking ideas and the people who can make them happen.
However, this isn’t just another conference – it’s on social media, runs lots of workshops, and has online webinars and blogs that people can sign up for during the year. This makes sense – the days of having to be physically present in order to find something out, are long gone. Unconvention has huge potential, because once innovators see firms, such as Innogy, getting involved, they’ll fight to get their new ideas seen and heard.