https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2016/05/11/energetic-connections/

Energetic connections

You hear people quoting business to business and business to consumer transactions in the energy world, and in the academic world you often hear about science to business.

To me there feels like there is something missing; something more human, not easy to measure or put a number against, but something that really could help drive someone to doing something big and special.

Innovator to investor transactions

Innovate UK stand at All energy 2016
Innovate UK stand at All energy 2016

Could that something be called innovator to investor (i2i) transactions? Ok, perhaps it’s a subset of previously mentioned acronyms, but a really important one that gets overlooked far too often.

In our delivery plan we said that “we recognise ambitious businesses want to know how we can help them grow – and they want to know as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

At Innovate UK our mantra is that we connect and fund business-led innovation. You hear about funding a lot of the time through new competitions but: what do we do that helps you connect as a business?

Lead technologists connect UK businesses to what they need

Mike Simpson of TetraFloat at All energy 2016
Mike Simpson of TetraFloat at All energy 2016

I’m Christian Inglis, I lead our energy systems programme at Innovate UK. I’m a people person and I get a huge kick out of hearing about something that has happened as a result of me making a new connection for someone else.

I’ve recently returned from our joint innovation showcase with DECC in Glasgow where we invited energy innovation projects from a variety of technology areas that have been funded through government support to pitch what they were up to and where they needed support next.

During the trip back I started musing about people and innovation and the key ingredients for making things happen.

Who are innovators and investors?

So, let’s breakdown the innovator to investor words a little – innovator, probably the more straightforward of the two to identify with, but still fraught with difference of opinion.

An innovator, in a general sense, is a person or an organization, who is one of the first to introduce into reality, something better than before. Something that opens up a new area for others, and achieves an innovation. - Wikipedia

My take out from this:

innovation requires passionate people to not just have a great idea but have the broader knowledge and skillset of how to take that idea forward.

The next one is investor. So most people at this point think private investor in some way shape or form. Of course this is very true and of the 27 companies pitching during our showcase session over 50% had some form of follow on investment they were looking for into their company.

However, many of the pitchers were looking for different types of investment especially in our morning session, either through:

  • new collaborations to solve some R&D challenge
  • first customer trials and demonstration sites
  • finding new expertise

Here you still need some kind of investor, where even though money may not be specifically changing hands in the usual commercial sense, there is:

  • trust to be developed
  • new relationships to be cemented
  • significant investment in time and resource to be spent to make that happen

So I would argue that all of those pitching are looking to make a connection with some kind of investor in the wider sense of the word.

Valley of stagnation

Could this be the place where there is a high chance of experiencing the innovation “valley of stagnation” that came up from the introductory speech from Rob Saunders, our Head of Energy at Innovate UK?

This was certainly the backdrop to some of the conversations I had back at our innovation hub stand after the innovation showcase and networking session, which led to hearing that companies were starting to hear feedback from potential investors, and also finding new and interesting leads to demonstration sites.

What was also great was to hear from companies such as WITT Energy and Upside Energy to name a few who have been smashing their recent private finance targets.

My conclusion

UK energy innovation is out there and strong, people care, and people also care about wanting to help those innovators succeed.

We could perhaps do a lot better at shouting about what is out there and how we can do more to help support the businesses through new “connecting” type activities such as an innovation presence at All Energy.

If you are interested in the companies that pitched on the day you can see a short summary from most of them here in our innovation showcase directory.

In the near future we will also have the videos available for some who were filmed by IET.tv on the day.

You can follow me on Twitter: @chringlis

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