Start-ups develop new business ideas for energy and mobility together with innogy

  • International “Free Electrons” competition names winner

  • The programme fosters collaboration between start-ups and leading energy companies from around the globe

Together with nine other international energy companies, the innogy Innovation Hub has once again called for entries on ideas for the future of energy this year. With the “Free Electrons” start-up programme, the energy companies provide an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to develop their products and services with large partners and gain access to potential investors and customers. The programme coordinators have received more than 500 applications this year, 15 start-ups were shortlisted and made it into the coveted programme. The start-up SOLshare was one of them and was announced as the winner at this year's closing conference last Friday. The award is worth USD 200,000 in prize money for the start-up.

“The energy industry is driven by constant change. In order to compete in this market and create intelligent energy solutions for our customers and partners, innovations and new, inspiring ideas are required. At “Free Electrons” smart start-ups with their innovative ideas meet large energy companies – both can benefit from this type of collaboration. In this way we can shape the future of energy”, says innogy SE CEO Uwe Tigges.

Stefan Padberg, Head of Digital Disruption of Energy Systems at the innogy Innovation Hub, adds: “We launched “Free Electrons” in 2016. The programme is aimed at connecting start-ups and a unique consortium of innovative energy companies who already invest billions of euros into upgrading the worldwide energy systems each year. On that basis we help creative approaches to grow quickly yet solidly, and in return we get to benefit from fresh product ideas. “Free Electrons” is a unique platform where energy utilities meet the best start-ups in the industry worldwide.”

Various business ideas were launched by innogy in the past few years in this way, either as independent start-ups or as pilot projects in innogy’s core business. The successful collaboration with the SOLshare start-up, which the innogy Innovation Hub invested in earlier this year and which has now been selected as the winner of the programme, is the latest one in this series. SOLshare connects people who generate their own energy to their neighbours who currently do not yet have access to electricity. The system is currently used in Bangladesh and SOLshare is planning to expand to India. SOLshare creates a peer-to-peer trading platform: households can sell excess electricity they do not use to households who previously had no access to electricity. Billing for this electricity takes place directly between those parties via a mobile platform. In this way a transparent, decentralised and fair market for renewable energy is established.

“Free Electrons“ is an “accelerator programme”. Programmes of this type enable start-ups to test their early ideas and first products directly with partners and potential customers and develop them further in collaboration with them. Here, the companies also make their extensive expertise, gained over many years in the business, available to selected customer groups. At the same time, new business ideas arise from the collaboration with start-ups and customers. The innogy team in Silicon Valley launched the programme together with further partners from the energy industry. Apart from innogy, the international consortium of supporting partners includes Ausnet Services and Origin Energy from Australia, DEWA (Dubai), EDP (Portugal), ESB (Ireland), Singapore Power (Singapore) and Tokyo Electric Power (Japan) as well as the Beta-i agency from Portugal. Together, the companies have access to a base of approximately 73 million customers worldwide and are active in more than 40 countries. For start-ups, the programme provides an ideal opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences and knowledge with experts and decision makers, with the objective to develop joint projects and enable investments.