On the occasion of the 2022 edition of VivaTech, Engie brought together many startups with which the group collaborates. A collaboration detailed by Stéphane Quéré, Director of Ecosystems in the Research and Innovation Department of.
How is support for innovation organized at Engie?
Stéphane Quéré: We act both on the development of the culture of innovation at Engie and on openness to external ecosystems. We are therefore working both to develop the capacity of Engie’s 100,000 employees to have the innovation reflex with processes, Innovation trophies, innovation communities, intrapreneurship which allow employees to develop new offers. We also work closely with start-ups through contacts, collaborations, tools that allow this operational synergy, and an investment fund.
Why such a device in favor of innovation?
SQ: Our core business is the energy transition. However, today all the technologies that will make it possible to achieve zero carbon have not yet been created. Many exist and we use them. Many will arrive very soon and we master them but there are still many things to invent. This is why we work in the short, medium and long term, whether with our research centers, our operational entities and of course with start-ups.
What topics do you focus on?
SQ: Obviously, renewable electricity, how to improve it, produce it differently. We have, for example, on our stand a company of which we are a partner and an investor which manufactures flexible solar films that we can put on buildings for example. Second major subject: the production of biogas and its second generation, how to produce it in another way, with other sources, for example with non-recyclable materials. Third angle: green hydrogen, produced with electricity that is not consumed, with different uses, as gas, to make electricity or to be combined to make new ones.
How do your collaborations with start-ups materialize?
SQ: Level 1 is commercial collaboration. Over the years, we have created an ecosystem around us and are involved in other systems for connecting our colleagues who manage operational entities. We also launch calls for projects to find the solution when a group entity is looking for an additional offer. This is level 2. We can also invest in start-ups with our fundwhich takes minority stakes in start-ups that are of strategic importance to us. There are also support programs, mentoring… The key is really this friction in the positive sense of the term between the operational entities of Engie and the start-ups.
What types of start-ups do you support?
SQ: A start-up, for example, uses second-life electric batteries. They are used to store the electricity produced and to absorb peaks in consumption. You also have a start-up that combines green hydrogen and CO2 to make biofuel, for example e-kerosene for airplanes. Last example: as we produce a lot of data, we collaborate with Dataiku, a French quasi-unicorn and our partner to help us develop use cases from the wealth of our data.
Do you think the world is innovating enough to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow?
SQ: We can never go fast enough and we are already late! We all have to get started, move forward, invent, test new technologies. I am convinced that new technologies are part of the answer. Not all of them are there yet. We have to go fast and try together to get there as much as we can.