The editorial team of Smart Energies 2016 interviewed Stéphane Quéré, ENGIE’s Innovation Director, to get some inside information about the Group’s digital transformation.
When did you become aware that the digital transformation must be at the heart of your growth and innovation strategy?
We have become aware of this issue gradually over the past several years. It is being driven by technology (like miniaturization and digitalization), environmental regulation and especially the behavior of our customers (taking control of consumption and autonomous energy production that relies on local renewable resources).
Technology has played a key role: I’m thinking about the drastic decline in the cost of photovoltaic panels, the emergence of the Internet of Things, and data generally. All this transforms our businesses in energy production, transport, distribution, and services.
What synergies are there with the digital ecosystem? Do you incorporate startups in your thinking? In what ways?
We are building a win-win ecosystem with startups to ensure that everyone benefits from the strengths of the others.
Practically-speaking, there are several options open to us: we can take a minority stake via ENGIE New Ventures, our corporate venture capital fund. We have already invested close to €25 million in 7 different startups.
We can also offer startups the chance to bring their skills to a specific project (e.g. a call for tenders).
For this, we use a call for projects. For the twenty calls for projects we’ve already launched in France, we’ve collected 343 responses... One more proof of the vitality of the French innovation ecosystem!
What areas of innovation do you prioritize?
We’re moving forward in many areas at the same time: green mobility, the Internet of Things, creating value from data, local production of renewable energy and connected buildings... The world of energy is experiencing an unprecedented upheaval: we’re interested in looking at any and all good ideas!
How are you reinventing user experiences?
We are very attentive to the needs expressed by our customers, and our goal is to use data better in order to improve the user experience, and therefore to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
In the United States, our subsidiary Ecova and our partner Tendril already sell such solutions. We are also considering electrical load shaving solutions that would allow us to pay customers to reduce their energy consumption during periods of high demand.
To be disruptive today, you have to think outside the box: How do you stimulate the organization internally? How do you shift your business activities and structure towards more agile models?
We rely heavily on the creativity and entrepreneurship of ENGIE employees. Nearly 9,000 of them are members of innnov@ENGIE, our internal innovation network. They have submitted more than 350 ideas for new businesses and more than 220 of them want to become intrapreneurs.
Fifteen projects are currently being incubated in external incubators that we have partnered with. The first startups are coming out of the process and have significant turnover!
Our sector is changing very rapidly, and only the most forward-looking and fastest stakeholders will shape the world of energy in the future. We intend to be one of them!
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