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Other innovations 30/06/2020

From innovation to commercial success: the ENGIE Innovation ecosystem

Csilla Kohalmi-Monfils is Head of Innovation Ecosystems at ENGIE. Her role is to deploy the ENGIE open innovation strategy, by supporting and animating internal and external innovation ecosystems. 

Innovation irrigates the entire ENGIE Group in order to transform innovative ideas into operational solutions and commercial offers.

Our main areas of innovation are renewable energies, green gases and solutions that help our customers in their own transition

Csilla Kohalmi-Monfils

How do you work with start-ups and what are the challenges in this context?

We engage with startups in several ways. They can be suppliers of innovative solutions for our own operations (over 200 at present), partners to test, develop & market solutions for our customers and finally they can enter our investment portfolio. The type of relationships we develop with them depends on the added value for each.

It also happens that startups are created internally, carried by intrapreneurs or involving entrepreneurs in residence who bring us their entrepreneurial experience to test and create a new solution. Sometimes these internal startups will then be outsourced. Take the example of a platform that allows cities or territories to identify the best energy supplier and simplify the contracting process ; its independence from ENGIE is the key to its credibility. Another example with a medical diagnosis solution for which it may be preferable to partner with a company in the medical sector for the industrialization of the solution.

Due to the decentralized organization of ENGIE, many initiatives, POCs or pilot projects are launched every year. The real challenge in this context is the industrialization of certain key solutions. Sharing information, expertise, experiences around the world is essential to foster collaboration and co-creation.

We invested more than 50 million euros in startups in 2019 and a 180 million euros corporate venture fund, ENGIE New Ventures.

How do you animate the Open Innovation ecosystem at ENGIE?

The animation of this ecosystem is organized at several levels:

• through our innovation platform, which is constantly evolving to better meet the challenges and needs of users. The goal is to centralize all the information in the same place to facilitate exchanges between our employees and startups,

• The Innovation Trophies, which highlight internal innovations, have been a ritual for over 30 years and identify more than 500 files each year involving thousands of employees.

• By participating in various internal and external networks, and partnering with key players: incubators, centers of excellence, EIT Digital, etc.

How do you usually source startups, and has the recent health crisis changed the way you do it?

We meet startups during many face-to-face events: forums, fairs, startup challenges as well as through our partners.

To meet the operational needs of the Group's BUs, we also launch calls for projects on our platform. We have a “startup guru” position that meets year-round with startups and puts them in touch with Group BUSs.

With the health crisis, the format of these meetings has changed, becoming mostly virtual. This kind of meetings has proved really effective and we intend to perpetuate it.

For example, we used to organize speed-dating between startups and business developers within the Group. Switching to an online format simplifies things, avoids lots of travel with a similar profit for all.

Startups can submit their solutions on our website Their submissions will be evaluated by our experts in order to put them in contact with the right persons in the Group. We already have 3000+ startup solutions in our database which can be consulted by our employees worldwide.

What are the key themes of Innovation at ENGIE? What is your innovation strategy?

Our Innovation strategy is linked to ENGIE's overall strategy. ENGIE's ambition to be the leader in the Zero Carbon transition implies that our main areas of innovation are renewable energies, green gases and solutions that help our customers in their own transition. For example:

• Renewable Energy Systems: facilitate the origination, development, operation & maintenance of renewable energy generation infrastructures (solar, wind, storage)

• Future proofing of our assets - flexibility, reliability, new marketing methods

• Facilitate the production, storage, transport and use of green gases (biogas and hydrogen)

• Industrial decarbonization

• Decarbonization offers for more sustainable and resilient cities and communities

• Energy efficiency and low / zero carbon solutions for buildings

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