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Enel

Learn more about how a multinational energy company with almost 74 million end users uses open innovation to power their sustainability plans: finding innovative solutions that meet society’s changing needs in environment, urban living, and the circular economy.

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Enel logo

Enel is a multinational energy company and one of the world’s leading integrated electricity and gas operators. The Enel Group works in more than 30 countries across five continents, and generated over 232 TWh of power in 2021 – as well as distributing energy and providing a vast range of products and services to customers.

As a company working in energy production and transition, Enel is committed to leading the way in sustainability. Through dedicated programs and global business lines, Enel is exploring the potential new solutions and innovations that will power the future. Innovation and sustainability are both fundamental and inter-dependent for the group: sustainability requires ongoing innovation and, for innovation to be genuinely useful, it must be sustainable.

This innovation has taken the form of co-creation with startups, SMEs, and large companies through our international community of partners, resources, customers, and data. By partnering with Wazoku, Enel has extended their reach for problem-solving and opportunity scouting to a global crowd of change makers – helping the group to reach its goals. Solvers can help Enel make an impact through their Open Innovability® platform.

This platform embodies Enel’s core values: that openness is the only way to create shared benefits for all. Their open innovation efforts have reached a community of hundreds of thousands of active Solvers, who have proposed over 7,000 solutions. Enel started with their own network of around 8,000 problem solvers in 2018 – the growth in their innovation goals has seen this crowd increase rapidly.

 

Enel HQ

Enel logo

“Our partnership with Wazoku has seen us run 50+ open innovation Challenges over 6 years. The unique perspectives of the Wazoku Crowd contributes greatly to the success of our Open Innovability® strategy.”

Santi Villari
Governance Expert and Project Manager – Enel Group
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21,000+

opportunities evaluated on the platform

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9

Innovation Hubs

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600+

collaborations

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450+

with start-ups

Open innovation Challenges

Enel has launched over 50 open innovation Challenges with Wazoku, using the insights of our Solvers to extend and enhance their programs. These Challenges have various incentives to gain interest from our community, ranging from monetary awards up to $30,000 USD to direct collaboration with the business lines – to work on their solutions with the team directly.

Over three specific Challenges, two business lines from the Enel Group found incredible value from our Solver community. Enel Green Power and Enel X leveraged the Open Innovability® platform to source novel ideas to pressing sustainability problems, and received high levels of engagement and solutions to their issues.

These two business lines used different Challenge types to focus the results of their search and ensure they received freedom of use of the proposed solution or idea. Enel Green Power ran two Ideation Challenges, meaning they were looking for ideas from the crowd that the group could then sort, prioritize, award at their discretion, and then use. Enel X ran an RTP Challenge, requiring written documentation and experimental proof-of-concept algorithms, models, or data. They used this Challenge type to ensure that solutions could be validated further along the implementation process and ready to develop further.

Enel Green Power logo

1. Biodiversity Innovations for Sustainability improvement at renewable energy plants – Enel Green Power – Ideation Challenge – contributing to SDG 13, 15

Enel Green Power (EGP) is the leader in the renewable energy sector, operating in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. As a global operator of wind farms, photovoltaic plants on land and water, hydroelectric installations, and geothermal energy plants, EGP is aware of the importance of ecosystems and the value of responsible management of resources along all phases: from early design, through to construction, operations, and decommissioning. For this Challenge, EGP was looking for new methodologies and tools  aimed at improving the environmental sustainability of its power plants, preserving biodiversity and achieving climate goals.Tortoises

Climate change and biodiversity loss are strictly interconnected: climate change is a relevant driver of biodiversity loss on one side and biodiversity loss worsens the climate crisis on the other side. In order to reach the target of limiting the global warming to 1.5°C, CO2 emissions have to be cut in half by 2030.  This goal can be achieved by increasing the growth of the renewable energies that has to be designed to guarantee the ecological continuity with the surrounding landscape and to be managed to avoid biodiversity loss, enhancing the existing habitats and ecosystems. The protection of biodiversity is a target of Enel Group’s environmental policy, that has adopted an inclusivity vision: involving local stakeholders and other partners with different backgrounds (e.g. universities, research centres, start-ups, not-for-profits, etc) through an Open Innovability® approach.

Enel Green Power has adapted and tailor-made the solution of one of the winners of the Challenge to a specific site. The solution is under testing in Pezouliotika PV plant in Greece, along with agrivoltaic tests. The trial’s results will give indications on the benefits achieved in terms of sustainability improvement of the green renewable plants of the EGP fleet.

 

“We realized that in our Pezouliotika photovoltaic plant, one of the winning solutions was very suitable for creating a biodiversity hotspot. The implemented solutions provide space, habitat, and forage for wild pollinator species such as bees and butterflies.

We chose this location in order to focus on the preservation of some target species, aiding local butterflies that were at risk of extinction.”

Maria Genovese
Environment and Impacts Mitigation Innovation Chapter, Enel Green Power

A collaborative multistakeholder approach is key for the success of these initiatives of environmental and ecological sustainability improvement of the renewable plants, because they create shared value for local communities, fostering the social acceptability of the renewable growth.

Enel X logo

2. New Smart City solutions enabled by open data – Enel X – RTP Challenge – contributing to SDG 9, 11

 

Bike lane

Enel X is a global business offering smart, simple, and fast technologies to help our customers make more intelligent decisions about the way energy is created, stored, and managed. Enel X used open innovation to identify new and effective technologies or solutions – ideally based on the open source paradigm – that leverage open data as a main input and synergize with current solutions to deliver added value. Solutions from Solvers would have to be cost-effective to keep Enel X competitive, while diversifying and enlarging the offer of the company. They decided to use open innovation to expand and ask a larger pool of perspectives to help them undertake such an ambitious project.

When scoping the Challenge, Enel X asked for a particular focus on areas such as:

  1. Public lighting: innovative solutions to improve their performance and/or simplify the operation and maintenance
  2. Architectural lighting evolution: to enhance the visual impact of historical and valuable buildings
  3. Urban mobility (including e-buses)
  4. City analysis: relevant analysis to produce indicators and actionable insights that can help public administration in planning and managing their services in a more effective way that can improve citizens’ quality of life

Enel X embarked on this Challenge as it is particularly useful to monitor the status of these urban services and the related trends over time. This data will also offer an “intelligence layer” to the outcomes of the Challenge, helping to discover important and significant correlations among the various data points.

The best and winning solutions can address real pain points of modern cities, producing valuable outputs through open data. An extra layer to the open innovation results is the potential for extra analysis: that will be useful to improve infrastructures/services operation & maintenance or to increase city resiliency and citizens’ quality of life.Graphical representation of a city

Enel X’s goal was to support a sustainable urban transition, applicable on every municipality regardless of its dimension, by leveraging open data and institutional benchmarks. The winning solution from the DISIT Lab of the University of Florence proposed an interesting concept based on the 15 minute city topic: where cities would exist with everything you need within a 15 minute walk or bicycle ride.

DISIT Lab and Enel X worked on a new prototype to explore the data and models in order to validate the principles within the city of Bologna. After the validation of the pilot, to properly address the scalability at national level, Enel X researched new sources, data, models, and came up with algorithms from scratch to deal with the scope.

Following a beta release to collect municipalities and end users’ feedback, the new 15 Minute City Index solution designed by Enel X was fully released on the Enel X YoUrban Portal in December 2021. The solution was made available free of charge to all the registered Italian Public Administration units, to support municipalities in their urban planning – in policy and in action.

The goal is to support the sustainable urban transition, leveraging on urban planning by proximity to reduce movements (and consequently emissions) increasing city resiliency and citizens’ quality of life. Through a user-friendly and interactive map, Italian cities can easily assess their current readiness to a 15 Minute City model and identify areas of improvement by using a data-driven approach.

 

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150+

open source datasets - analyzed, cleaned, and processed

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49

KPIs measured against

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620,000+

‘15 minute’ micro-districts of all 7,904 Italian municipalities

“Enel X launched this challenge to involve and stimulate the ecosystem in the Open Data valorization path to generate benefit for cities. Helping administrations in creating sustainable urban environment is a main objective for Enel X and we’ve been happy to see how much the concept proposed by Disit Lab – University of Florence was aligned to our goals.

This is why after the awarding we decided to start a collaboration to reshape the concept in a pilot project – and successively we re-engineered the solution to reach the nation-wide scale up, and keep on bringing Disit Lab on board for the scientific validation of the outcomes.”

Sergio Gambacorta
Head of Smart City - Enel X

Enel Green Power logo

3. Producing Glass Wool and Insulating Building Materials from Wind Turbine Blades – Enel Green Power – Ideation Challenge – contributing to SDG 9, 11, 12, 13

 

Wind turbine

Enel Green Power (EGP) also used open innovation to look for sustainable and economical processes to produce glass wool and other insulating building materials by recycling wind turbine blades. Exponential growth in the wind energy market in the last few decades sees thousands of new turbines installed every year worldwide. Predictions indicate that this trend will continue, keeping wind energy at the forefront of renewable energy and helping communities around the globe to have safe, reliable, and sustainable energy.

The average useful life of wind turbines is about 20 years. After this period, the mechanical and structural properties of the turbines decay. Then, refurbishments might be necessary to extend their lifetime for a few more years, or the wind turbines are dismantled. Whereas the majority of wind turbine components are quite easy to recycle (i.e. metal parts), there is a small non-metallic portion of components that is less easy to recycle: the blades of the turbines. These are mostly made of composite materials (typically glass/carbon fibres and an epoxy matrix), plus some other minor materials like the glue and coat, making this task particularly challenging.

As the first generations of wind turbine technology approach the end-of-life stage and must be dismantled, the need to find adequate methods to recycle the blades and their components gains increasing relevance and importance. This need contributes to both EGP and the wider Group’s plans to continue finding more sustainable actions under a circular economy perspective.

In conversation with Giulia Pasquale, Environment and Impacts Mitigation Chapter Innovation at Enel Green Power.

Q :What brought you to this Challenge idea?

GP :“Circular economy is one of the main approaches of Enel Green Power for a sustainable future. Focusing on wind blade recycling is vital to further reduce the impact of our renewable fleet.”

Q :Have you found success through open innovation?

GP :“One of the winning solutions of this Challenge gave us the opportunity to explore the production of insulating panels with recycled blade material as an option! We are now validating the feasibility of the process through some testing activities, with first promising results.”

Q :What are the next steps?

GP :“The success of our foray into open innovation have allowed us to extend the analysis of this recycling plan to additional use cases. The success of the tests would confirm the viability of one or more of the paths for the valorization of end-of-life wind turbine blades.”

Enel Green Power used this Ideation Challenge to find new ideas for the best available methods and processes to produce glass wool and insulating building materials from recycled wind turbine blades. The team at EGP had previously identified the building sector as a potential final user of recycled turbine blades, but was searching for more specific and suitable processes and products that they could be used for.

EGP further analyzed the winning solutions and carried out tests to define the optimal characteristics of recycled materials that could be integrated into insulation panels. The main driver for this activity was to create additional value through a circular approach. Before, the blades had no use and have not been recycled: now, these components can have a further purpose.

Success of the Challenges

The Enel Group found success in each of these Challenges, leveraging the different Challenge types to better explore these areas. For Enel Green Power’s Challenges, using Ideation agreements meant that they had a wealth of ideas to evaluate from a crowd who can provide diverse and unique perspectives to act as a force multiplier for a search. With Enel X’s RTP Challenge, something more specific and developed was required: using RTP to find a proof-of-concept led them to a successful partnership with a team from an academic institution.

Enel have incorporated sustainability and the power of open innovation across their entire strategy, knowing that the best ideas might often come from outside their organization. When these external ideas are coupled with Enel teams’ internal proficiencies, incredible results follow. Across just these three Challenges, different business lines have found successful sustainability blueprints, recycling to lead to a more circular economy, and used open source data to plan the cities of the future.

It all starts with a question and an idea.

The role of Wazoku

The continued partnership with Wazoku means that Enel’s Challenges are posted to a wide audience of specialists from many different industries, countries, and backgrounds. A variety in Challenge types means that the different business lines in the Enel group can configure their output to their needs: running an Ideation Challenge for idea collection and a RTP Challenge for more substantially-developed and validated solutions. Challenges are posted to the Enel Showcase and are shown to our Solver network from across the globe.

Wazoku Solvers don’t only provide value through their submitted ideas, however. Many Challenges run by Enel have led to successful collaboration or consultation agreements. With Enel’s substantial network of SMEs, startups, and partners, Wazoku can highlight their business Challenges and ensure that sustainability problems get more eyes on them, wherever they originate from.

Future plans

Enel is dedicated to creating innovative solutions that meet society’s changing needs. Through its openinnovability.com crowdsourcing platform, the company connects people and ideas from across the world, encouraging anyone to propose sustainable innovation projects and solutions that help develop local communities. The Enel Group’s partnership with Wazoku means that their crowdsourcing Challenges are posted to a wider audience of millions of change makers: the Wazoku Crowd.

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