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New energies 19/11/2020

GEM Innovathon: let's co-create a sustainable world

Look back on an unprecedent adventure. In 2017, the BU GEM (ENGIE Global Energy Management) and seven of its customers launched the inaugural Innovathon on customer experience . Three years later, the second Innovathon has just wrapped up. Working with six other GEM customers, participants identified projects pointing towards ways of doing profitable, sustainable business. 

If we want to kickstart the irreversible transformation towards a carbon-free society, we need commitment and collaboration from all of our customers

Razvan Dordea - Intraprener

Razvan DORDEA, you are a tireless promoter of innovation in the GEM (ENGIE Global Energy Management) BU, and you were already the driving force behind the 1st Innovathon. Why do another one? 

RD : The first Innovathon focused on customer experience. This new one tackled a more ambitious subject, sustainable development, focusing on making an expanding impact on the market to create a world where business can be both profitable and sustainable. If we want to kickstart the irreversible transformation towards a carbon-free society, we need commitment and collaboration from all of our customers. And our "big" customers (e.g. Michelin, Borealis, etc.) have de facto a greater impact.

The Innovathon was initially planned to last two months, but the pandemic forced us to change our plans. We decided to turn the threat into an opportunity. So we held it instead over a period of seven months, right in the middle of COVID. It was very important to stay driven during this whole time! Nearly 1,000 people were involved or participated in the Innovathon and we did everything we could to maintain unprecedented levels of commitment.

Can you tell us about the Innovathon process? 

The Innovathon consisted of a mix of workshops and pitch sessions and culminated in a 48-hour hackathon where the eight finalists were helped by mentors and experts to boost their projects.
The first step consisted of understanding the needs of six of our GEM clients during a workshop. These then gave rise to a “call for ideas” within GEM and some partner BUs including E&C, the Hydrogen BU, ENGIE Impact, the Africa BU, and ENGIE Digital.  27 projects emerged from this process, of which 25 entered the second round by pitching their idea to GEM clients and the selection committee. 
14 teams were chosen, and 12 of them participated in a second workshop that allowed them to shape their business model and value creation proposals.
An internal committee then selected eight teams as finalists to participate in the hackathon.

The finalist projects: 

  • Greenland: A digital platform that allows our clients to purchase green energy based on their preferences and carbon impact. Greenland also allows them to become producers themselves and contribute to the availability of green energy for the community.
  • Gas origin certification for better traceability: A solution that allows our customers to understand and confirm where the gas they buy comes from, to avoid shale gas and to give preference to more local gas.
  • TEO - The Energy Origin: The first platform for certifying and tracking carbon neutral electricity via the blockchain.
  • TIP on-site: A solution that reduces a customer's electricity consumption during the day.
  • CarbonMatcher: Buying carbon neutral energy based on criteria such as price, energy type, or carbon impact, at an hourly level
  • Recycling and using CO2: Evaluating the best opportunities for carbon capture and injecting it into concrete to eliminate it
  • Visualize my carbon footprint: Viewing your carbon footprint based on energy consumed
  • Long term green gas commitment: Identifying local and global green gas sourcing opportunities.

These projects all focus on issues related to decarbonization, with an emphasis on controlling carbon footprints and traceability. Was it difficult to pick the winners?

Yes, two winners were chosen at the end of a long process:

  • Gas Origin Certification for Better Traceability
  • Carbon Matcher

And a special award was given to Recycling and Using Co2.

The committee evaluated the projects based on six criteria: customer desirability, impact on the planet, impact on society, feasibility, profitability and the innovative aspect of the project. Our customers were not members of the committee, but they were able to vote for their favorite projects and the committee took these into consideration in its overall evaluation. 
The winning projects had to be easy to accelerate, chosen by the clients, and in line with ENGIE's strategic goals. And the winners met all these criteria!

Did the projects already exist before, like TEO, or were some created specifically for the Innovathon? 

Both! Some projects already existed, but thanks to the Innovathon they were able to develop new features, collect more customer feedback and improve or evolve what they had to offer.
Other projects like Visualize my Carbon Footprint were created specifically during the Innovathon. 
Having already won the first Innovathon, the TIP on Site project is now being used by various industrial customers, particularly in Belgium and the Netherlands: Borealis, Umicore, etc.
Matchee, the other winner of the 2018 edition, has now been folded into one of the finalists for this new Innovathon, Greenland.
Among the committee’s selection criteria was its innovative nature. This category gave projects with lower scores for "profitability" a chance to shine, while more mature projects ranked higher on criteria such as market knowledge.

So, for the winners, is the next step acceleration?

The winning projects will be monitored and accelerated in order to help them develop an MVP, do customer tests, etc. Some will do so at GEM, or as part of ENGIE's New Business Factory. Conversations are already underway. GEM's Innovation team is studying how to start the process. 
The projects that didn’t win are not being cast aside. Some are highly interesting and will also be accelerated. For example, Visualize my Carbon Footprint will be accelerated within the Transformation Department, Greenland will continue with E&C, and TEO will continue with GEM.

In conclusion, what are your takeaways from this Innovathon 2020?

I think it's important to mention the systemic impact of this initiative. We are touching on important businesses, on a global scale. With customers like Borealis these projects can have a significant impact on accelerating the transition to a carbon-free world. 
And I wanted to add that other BUs should contact us if they want to develop this kind of project. 

After working on “customer experience” and “a more sustainable world”, what topic will we tackle for the next Innovathon? 

Global Energy Management (GEM) is the ENGIE Business Unit that manages the Group’s portfolio of electricity, natural gas, environmental products and other raw material assets and its external clients worldwide. With more than 1,350 employees and 5 trading platforms worldwide, GEM provides 4 main areas of expertise: energy supply, energy transition services, risk management and market access, and asset management. 

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