ABC Accelerator’s Open Day Unveils New Startup Opportunities
Date: December 20th 2019
Under the recently launched European Green Deal, the EU aims to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050, and cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 55% by 2030, said Gorazd Ažman of ELES, Slovenia's TSO for electricity, yesterday at ABC Accelerator's open day event called 'Mingle & Jingle'. In his talk, Ažman also emphasised the importance of the EU’s Clean Energy package, saying that startups can address a wide range of energy-related issues. – ABC’s open day started with INNOtalks with Veronika Rožmanc, an industry designer and the winner of the Best Youth Startup 2019 competition. The event continued with a presentation of opportunities provided for startups by InnoEnergy, Europe's largest sustainable energy innovation engine, and EIT Digital Accelerator, one of the leading European accelerators, with ABC Accelerator as its local hub for Slovenia.
Startups meet traditional utilities
“The measures implemented as part of a timeline of key policies comprise ambitious emission cuts, investment in cutting-edge research and innovation, and preservation of Europe’s natural environment. Investment in green technology, sustainable solutions, and new opportunities for businesses could make the Green Deal Europe’s new growth strategy. For it to work, it should enjoy full support and cooperation from general public as well as all stakeholders,” said Gorazd Ažman when outlining the key features of the Green Deal. In this capacity, the EU will help businesses become global leaders in clean products and technologies, he added.
Currently, fossil fuels still dominate the energy mix. However, focusing on the power generation mix alone, one can see that non-renewable energy accounts for 73.8%, while renewables account for 26.2%. Of the latter, hydro power has the largest share with 15.5%, according to Ažman. He proceeded by explaining how decarbonisation can be achieved using renewables, saying that growth in variable renewable power generation sources will generate the need for short- and long-term energy storage. Meanwhile, the energy system is increasingly decentralised, and energy has started flowing in all directions rather than just from large producers to consumers. “This will require managing to make sure systems are more integrated (for instance the power system and the gas system, Author’s Note), and will have to be supported digitally to an adequate extent in order to work at all,” said Ažman.
In the second part of his presentation, Ažman explained how ELES was addressing these issues through large projects. For instance, the Slovenian-Croatian project SINCRO.GRID is about managing large power flows such as flows from Croatia via Slovenia to Central Europe. Meanwhile, a concept of integral development of infrastructure for mass charging of electric vehicles called E8 addresses the issue of slow and smart charging of electric vehicles, to reduce the charging load on the system while using battery energy storage units smartly.
Ažman also mentioned ELES’ new Diagnostics and Analytics Centre (MORE), primarily to “show how the importance of digitalisation, its potential impacts and the volume of data ELES alone deals with – as well as the challenges of bringing all this together to arrive at reasonable decisions”. In addition to ELES’ case, Ažman explained how the digitalisation challenge is tackled by two other TSOs, Norway’s Statnett and Belgium’s Elia. In pilot projects, the latter is now making greater effort to work with startups; the results of this include a blockchain-based solution “for the provision of flexibility. The TSO also currently works with Prisma Photonics, a provider of a sensing system for detecting faults in substations”. Meanwhile, Statnett has developed solutions independently, using for instance drones for automatic inspection of substations, explained Ažman.
Slovenian startups working on sustainable innovations
Maja Jerala, Head Manager of EU Funds at InnoEnergy’s Slovenian hub, ABC Accelerator, can confirm that Slovenian startups have already recognised the need for sustainable innovation. Speaking on the sidelines of a presentation of InnoEnergy’s opportunities for Slovenian startups as well as investors and young individuals who are only just exploring their career options, Jerala said “the sustainability principle required a different approach to business models and making profit, and this approach needs to be attractive enough not just for potential investors but above all for users – users are those who can contribute the most to the growth of sustainable models although these often require a change of daily routines and practices”. For Slovenian startups, a greater challenge is finding a truly sustainable and innovative business model to implement their solutions – and this is where ABC Accelerator steps in, added Jerala.
According to Jerala, ABC Accelerator wants to help startups overcome all the obstacles standing in the way of their idea implementation. “Since its establishment in 2015, the accelerator has worked with some 150 startups from a number of countries. The overall narrative of ABC is based on a unique network of bridges between SMEs and multinationals, academia and industry, across sectors and generations, between cities and countries, and most importantly, between accelerators and other innovation hubs. This helps change the landscape for all players in the market, including investors.”
ABC Accelerator is currently working on up to nine European and national projects, with energy as one of very prominent sectors, including subsectors such as energy storage and sustainable energy, said the manager at InnoEnergy’s hub for Slovenia. InnoEnergy seeks sustainable energy solutions and innovations, bringing together startups, corporations and research institutions, with investment in international consortia ranging from EUR 1 million to EUR 7 million. “Just last week, a Slovenian company managed to raise just over EUR 4 million from investors as part of an InnoEnergy programme,” noted Maja Jerala. In January 2020, ABC is starting PRIMER, a one-month programme that also serves as an entry point for InnoEnergy’s PowerUp! national competition, whose winner moves to the final, European stage of the competition and lands an opportunity to participate in investment programmes, explained Jerala, highlighting Mebius as a good example of a startup that benefited enormously from working with ABC Accelerator and InnoEnergy.
In 2020, PowerUp! Slovenia will be held during the ‘Energetika Interklima’ exhibition in Celje, said Jerala, adding that all startups, fast growing companies and SMEs with an ambition to grow and develop their business on a European scale, but above all women innovators, are welcome to apply.
By Tuesday, 31 December 2019, ABC Accelerator also welcomes applications for InnoEnergy’s pre-acceleration programme PRIMER. The programme is free-of-charge and will help participants throughout their course of development grow a viable business and develop it on a global level. To apply, please follow this link.
On Monday, 23 December, read our interview with Maja Jerala in Energetika.NET's Startup section.
EIT Digital Summer School returns in 2020 for its 2nd edition in Slovenia
In addition to the opportunities provided by InnoEnergy, ABC listed the options given by EIT Digital: education opportunities for early stage startup teams and individuals, as well as investment opportunities for innovative early stage startups as part of EIT Digital Venture Program.
Back in September, 27 entrepreneurial teams from 12 countries were announced as winners of EIT Digital Venture Program 2019, organised jointly by ABC Accelerator, Building Global Innovators, Found.ation and Startup Wise Guys. Each team, including three from Slovenia, received EUR 15.000 to develop and finalise their minimum viable products (MVP).
EIT Digital has also confirmed the return of EIT Digital Summer School to Slovenia: the course will be held in mid-July 2020 at the School of Economics and Business in Ljubljana.
Our interview with EIT Digital’s Fabio Pianesi will also be available on Energetika.NET on Monday, 23 December.
This article is available also in Slovene.