Ed’s note: Utilities and start-ups – A match made in heaven?

Pump up the volume folks, because the new generation of energy experts is starting to roar loudly and you do not want to miss that melodic sound. A sound that just got itself a new platform, by the way, courtesy of Enlit Europe and Initiate! It is called InitiateTech and you want to check this out.

In many conversations that I’ve had with utility representatives throughout the years, I would hear the same complaint over and over again. Young experts (and especially those focusing on programming or IT) do not see utilities as their first – or second, or third –  choice when searching for a job.  

The (most of the time) misinformed notion that a job at a utility will be dull and not challenging at all, is the number one answer I get when I share the complaint above with the young professionals of Initiate. This misguided conception, in combination with the apparent inability from utilities to explain why this conception is indeed misguided and how a job at a utility can be challenging and plenty of fun, is the reason why this situation is turning into a vicious circle, or a self-fulfilling prophecy if you prefer a more biblical analogy.

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But of course, this lack of connection doesn’t only affect utilities. It also affects the young professionals and the various start-ups that actually do need to connect to a utility in order to flourish and bloom. The start-ups have the energy, the talents, the new ideas, that’s true. But they do need the expertise and the financial opportunities that utilities can offer. 

Enter IntiateTech and Sietske Jacobs, Director of Initiate.

“One of the innovation gaps to bridge is the collaboration between start-ups and corporate businesses. Next-gen tech often feels they are lacking credibility and proof. They are ready to engage with large corporates but the corporate players – on the other hand – need to be able to mitigate the risk of start-up collaboration. We need to create an equal level playing field allowing for faster adoption of working with new tech. In return, this will contribute to reaching net zero in 2050,” says Sietske.

For those of you out there – really just a few by now, I trust – unfamiliar with Initiate, it is the innovation programme that started 6 years ago as part of Enlit Europe (then European Utility Week). The programme aimed at connecting the next generation of technology and talents with the accomplished professionals of the industry. Now, Initiate joined forces with The Disruption House (TDH), a company specialising in data analytics. Together, they created a platform to accelerate the adoption of emerging smart energy technology: InitiateTech.

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Sietske Jacobs and the InitiateTech team conducted a research to find out what is stopping the energy sector from adopting next-generation technology. And their findings, although not ground-breaking per se, are indicative of where the problem lies.

Below is an example of some of the key findings of the research:

  • 94% of technology firms say that the lead generation process is not as effective as they would like/would like to do better;
  • 44% of technology companies think the due diligence process is (quite) difficult;
  • 77% of utilities think working with technology start-ups is medium to high risk;
  • Utilities think assessing a technology company’s Environmental Sustainability and Governance attributes and their readiness to scale are currently difficult to do.

What I gather from the key findings of the research, is that there is undoubtedly a need and an opportunity for utilities and start-ups to come together in order to draw the energy map that we are going to put to good use for the next decades. And I strongly believe that InitiateTech is going to become a most useful tool for all players in the sector.

What do you think? Share your thoughts via editorial@smart-energy.com.


Areti Ntaradimou
Editor, Smart Energy International