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For GDF SUEZ, being innovative also means anticipating the energy transformation

Energy Communities
16/03/2015

Capturing new markets and giving eco-innovative start-ups the means to make themselves known in an ever-changing energy sector: these are challenges GDF SUEZ must rise to meet. What innovative methods should the Group use to do so? Stéphane Quéré, the Group’s Innovation Director, give his perspective on this issue.

How can GDF SUEZ support the energy transition?

Stéphane Quéré: The energy sector is undergoing unprecedented changes. GDF SUEZ does not just want to support what is in fact more of an “energy transformation” than a “transition”&mdashit also wants to stay ahead of and lead this trend. New consumption habits, mastering new modes of production (which are becoming more and more localized) and major changes in the energy business: all of these things are leading us speed up our innovation process. It is therefore essential for GDF SUEZ to interact with the energy and environmental ecosystem both internally and externally.

How do you manage to seize upon innovative ideas within the company?

Stéphane Quéré: Collaborative work! With over 150,000 employees in 50 countries worldwide, GDF SUEZ is present on the ground, and extremely close to its customers. To capture the spirit of innovation, we invite all employees to submit their ideas to the corporate social network known as innov@GDFSUEZ. Our staff is full of ideas! The platform, which we started in October 2014, has already enabled us to identify and potentially turn over 170 ideas into the products of tomorrow. Nine teams of GDF SUEZ employees are currently developing these ideas in 5 external incubators. GDF SUEZ is also organizing a Group-wide annual Innovation Trophy to reward the most innovative employees from all of its branches and subsidiaries. More than 500 innovative projects are submitted each year and a dozen are given an award.

What actions has GDF SUEZ taken to interact with the innovation ecosystem outside the company?

Stéphane Quéré: To speed up the time to market and develop new sustainable business in a rapidly changing energy sector, GDF SUEZ collaborates with the external innovation ecosystem. The GDF SUEZ New Ventures investment fund, with a 100 million Euro budget, is a remarkable means of doing so! This fund lets us take minority stakes in start-ups at in their business development phase. We think that is when we are the most useful by giving them the means to grow: connecting them to our customers, sharing our technological skills, helping them to enter into new geographical areas, etc.

What are some of the GDF SUEZ investment fund’s first operations?

Stéphane Quéré: The GDF SUEZ New Ventures’ investment fund already boasts from three great partnerships: one in Belgium with Powerdale, an energy monitoring and electric mobility specialist; on in the USA with Tendril, a big data and smart energy management expert, and one in France with Sigfox, a new player in the market of the Internet of Things.

What other activities is the Group involved in?

We have had numerous meetings with startups, organizing events such as GDF SUEZ Innovation Days, marketplaces, startup pitches and Innovation Morning Meetings in partnership with major stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem. Our subsidiaries are also launching calls for projects from outside the company via our OpenInnov platform in order to develop them with external project owners, startups, industrial groups and other entrepreneurs.

Source: Juliette Le Reste