Total Energy Ventures: Innovating with Start-ups
Innovation is not just for R&D units and large corporations. Total has a team - Total Energy Ventures - that identifies opportunities for cooperation with energy start-ups, and supports them by acquiring holdings. With more than 500 proposals analysed each year, Total Energy Ventures gives the Group clearer insight into the changes affecting some professional fields and helps it to plan for long-term growth. From the generation of renewable electricity and energy storage to intelligent network management, new forms of mobility and energy efficiency, the start-ups supported by Total Energy Ventures help to shape the landscape for energy that is plentiful, more environmentally friendly, cheaper and easier to access.
Total is a committed partner, working shoulder to shoulder with the innovative start-ups it invests in.
OpenField Technology provides integrated sensor systems for the most demanding environments. Its micro-sensors, easily deployed and based on proprietary technologies, accurately measure fluid properties in the harsh well environment.
Sunfire GmbH develops and manufactures reversible fuel cells that can both cogenerate electricity and heat from a wide variety of liquid and gaseous fuels and produce synthetic fuels from renewable electricity.
NexSteppe uses advanced breeding techniques and analytical technologies to develop scalable, reliable and sustainable feedstock solutions for the biofuels, biopower and biobased product industries.
Sunverge provides intelligent and distributed energy storage systems. Integrated with solar systems in homes or businesses, and connected to the grid, each unit runs automatically to lower electricity bills, improve reliability, and protect the grid.
Off-Grid Electric develops individual solar systems that help increase access to affordable electricity for populations with very limited or no connection to the electrical grid.
In Pursuit of Innovative Energy Start-Ups
As part of Total's commitment to a better energy future, Total Energy Ventures constantly tracks the start-up’s ecosystem in order to identify, promote and capitalise on breakthrough innovations that could deliver:
- new solutions or professional fields, which could in the long term become growth drivers for the Group;
- major improvements in our operations, in terms of safety, effectiveness and environmental footprint.
For Total, this monitoring is essential in a world where traditional businesses are now seeing the emergence of start-ups that succeed thanks to innovation, often in the space of just a few years. Start-ups have proliferated in communications, the media, marketing and all forms of financial intermediation. Transportation and energy are also increasingly being affected by these rapid and extensive changes.
It is the revolution in access to knowledge, especially thanks to IT, that has given everyone, everywhere, the ability to innovate. This applies equally to opportunities for pooling skills, publicising and financing projects, and distributing new products and services far and wide.
Innovative start-ups are most often identified through Total Energy Ventures' external networks: private equity players such as start-up incubators, industrial entrepreneurs, investment funds, and public sector innovation support bodies. They are then analysed with the help of all the Group's innovation stakeholders, in its central management and professional fields.
Selective Investments in Promising Start-Ups
When it comes to innovating in mature industries like energy, projects are long, expensive and complex. For Total, a good way of positioning itself in forward-thinking sectors while keeping control of its financial exposure is to invest in innovative start-ups. If they focus on a clear goal, are supported by serious shareholders who bring to bear their expertise and networks, and share the risk over the long term, start-ups are an investment in the future.
The start-ups supported by Total Energy Ventures meet a demanding set of specifications. The primary selection criterion is the learning value for the Group, assessed by a steering committee.
“Total Energy Ventures’ focus is much less short-term than most Venture Capital (VC) investors. The potential to bring new solutions to energy markets has been a key driver in our discussions.” Eric Donzier, CEO Openfield Technologies.
As an investor, Total Energy Ventures also evaluates the quality of a start-up’s technological capacity, business plan and management, and carries out a financial analysis to determine the potential return on investment, a key element in the final decision for an acquisition.
Ultimately, Total Energy Ventures invests in 1 to 2% of proposals analysed.
Working Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Start-Ups
Total is a committed partner, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the innovative start-ups it invests in. Total Energy Ventures usually sits on a start-up’s board of directors as an observer, and maintains a constant relationship with the management team and other shareholders. The Total Energy Ventures team encourages and facilitates discussions and cooperation between the Group's business units and start-ups. Numerous commercial or technological agreements have been signed or are being prepared.
Our commitment is to work even more closely with start-ups, not only in the USA and Europe, the major innovation hubs where we already operate, but also further afield in all growth areas. This commitment to start-ups earned the Group the "Corporate Investor of the Year” award during the 2017 edition of the prestigious Global Cleantech 100 forum1.
1Source: Global Cleantech 100 press release