To promote new uses of energy and new ways of managing it and making it accessible to more people in a sustainable manner, Enel has made innovation and digitization key aspects of our business strategy. It is a strategy that touches both our traditional business and the development of new technologies and new business models in a manner that levers the creativity, passion, ideas and technologies both within the organization and from the outside.
In line with our vision of Open Power, the Group promotes an open model of innovation in facing the challenges of the industry throughout the various areas of the organization. It is an approach based on sharing that enables us to face the challenges in all areas of the organization with start-ups, industrial partners, small and medium-sized enterprises, research centers, universities, and crowdsourcing platforms.
Collaborations arise within the Open Innovation ecosystem, with was renamed “Open Innovability” in 2017 as an expression of our firm belief at Enel that innovation and sustainability are always inextricably linked. It is an ecosystem that, in 2017, enabled us to launch the online platform openinnovability.
enel.com for individuals and businesses looking to contribute to sustainable business practices and to transform ideas into actual projects. In terms of these collaborations, Enel’s focus is not only on partnerships with major corporations, but also on virtuous collaborations with start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises that are doing excellent work.
Enel’s commitment to digital progress and open innovation was recognized in 2017 with the Business Model Transformation Award for the fourth edition of the World Open Innovation Conference, one of the most important events worldwide in the field organized by the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation and the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business and held in San Francisco. Enel is currently involved in some 200 innovation projects and 14 Global Innovation Partnerships, bringing the total number of local and global innovation partnerships to 124. In 2017, we also launched three more innovation hubs (in California, Russia and Spain) to further strengthen Enel’s presence in some of the world’s most cutting-edge ecosystems. These innovation hubs make a new model of collaboration possible in that the Group provides the infrastructures and a global network of businesses along with their knowledge and experience as global industry players. We also inaugurated the first Innovation Lab in Catania (Italy) to stimulate research and innovation in the energy industry by creating a technology campus and a business accelerator for young people designed to host local, national and international startups and research centers.
Out of these intellectual collaborations and cross-contaminations came innovative solutions that have also led to the filing of specific patents. One such example in the workplace health and safety area is the fabric for gloves to be used when working with low voltage, which was the result of a collaboration between the Innovation unit of Global Thermal Generation and Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), which led to the joint filing of a patent and an innovative agreement for the joint management of the related rights.
The process of change must necessarily involve the development of specific projects to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship globally, and this includes the promotional campaign co-created by employees around the world known as “#nomoreexcuses”. The goal of this campaign was to identify the causes – the “excuses” of the hashtag – of the cultural obstacles to change, and for each of these a response was given in order to stimulate a reaction to overcome them and to promote an attitude of openness to innovation.
The main innovation efforts in 2017 in the field of thermal generation concerned improvements to plant flexibility and efficiency and minimization of emissions and environmental impact, as well as the application of advanced monitoring and diagnostics system and Internet of Things (IoT) applications and the development of storage systems and new business models. One such example is the installation of a drone system at the Torrevaldaliga Nord plant to provide environmental monitoring and security services. The drone is able to fly autonomously with the aid of video-analysis algorithms and the definition of three-dimensional flight paths via software. An anti-drone system has also been installed to protect the plant from intrusions by hostile drones. The digital revolution of grids involved improvements to efficiency and service quality for customers in the various countries in which Enel operates. One major example is the microgrid in Paratebueno (Colombia), which made it possible to bring sustainable electricity to a number of villages and which will serve to test new technologies to be replicated in other areas. In Spain, within the scope of the project “la Graciosa”, Enel has worked to demonstrate the efficacy of storage systems in order to maximize the penetration of renewable energy while maintaining maximum service quality in the distribution networks. Work also continued for the European project RESCCUE (Resilience to cope with Climate Change in Urban Areas), in which Enel is involved through our Spanish subsidiary, Endesa. The project was launched in order to develop innovative tools and models to improve the ability of urban areas to face current and future challenges related to climate change.
Finally, the Group is also focusing on the fields of access to energy, the integration of renewables into the electrical system, and the use of new technologies in order to improve energy access in local communities by electrifying remote areas by combining diverse generation technologies and using storage systems, while also seeking solutions to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of renewable resources in urban settings, as well, and developing the use of new renewable resources that are not currently being exploited, with a particular emphasis on marine energy.