Free Electrons: Searching for the World’s Best Energy Start-ups

The 2019 edition of Free Electrons - the world’s first global energy accelerator programme - is back and now open to entries! Entering its third year, Free Electrons connects the world’s most promising start-ups with leading utility companies across the globe to co-create the future of energy. The programme aims to attract startups developing solutions in the fields of mobility, clean and smart energy and digitalisation.

Since we initiated and co-founded Free Electrons in 2017, the programme has received more than 1,000 applications from companies in 70+ countries with 50+ pilots taking place, 27 start-ups accelerated and more than $5 million worth of deals signed so far (with an ongoing pipeline of opportunities in excess of $15 million).

It has also grown to include the participation of 10 international utilities that together have a total customer base of 80 million in 40+ countries. Its appeal to the energy utility sector highlights both the quality of the Free Electrons programme and also the importance of innovation and technology to the future of energy.

To find out more about how Free Electrons helps utilities ‘go outside to innovate from within’ and why it’s a win-win for both start-ups and utilities, read our interview with Stefan Padberg and Florian Kolb. Start-ups will also be competing for the coveted title of “Free Electrons World’s Best Energy Startup” and a prize of $200,000. To find out more about last year’s winner - and innogy Innovation Hub portfolio company! - SOLshare, read our article here.

Through the Free Electrons programme, we have made a total of three new investments so far:

We have also been involved in pilots with BeOn Energy, winner of the first Free Electrons programme in 2017, and Jungle.ai, a finalist in 2018.

So what will we at the Innovation Hub be looking for from this year’s cohort?

innogy New Ventures LLC, Managing Director, Stefan Padberg explains:

“At the Innovation Hub, we are not only looking for the start-ups that have applications or products that fit within the existing energy utility’s business model. This is of course important and in common with all the utilities participating. However, we also look beyond the horizon for start-ups that really have the potential to disrupt and radically transform the industry.

“Take Sterblue as an example. Their software, which supports drone-based inspections of power lines and wind turbines, clearly has immediate applications for utilities. It’s no surprise that, by doubling productivity and improving reliability compared to manual inspections, the team is already working with many utilities around the world. However, we also see the potential for Sterblue’s AI technology in the automated digital grid of the future. Our vision is of a self-checking and self-maintaining grid infrastructure and Sterblue is building tools that make that future possible.

“Through Free Electrons, we’ll be looking for start-ups with the capacity to make an immediate impact within the energy industry as well as the potential to disrupt the status quo and help create the future of energy.”

Think you have what it takes?

To find out more and to apply for Free Electrons, visit: www.freetheelectron.com

Key timings:

  • Initial applications: Jan 9 th to Feb 22 nd
  • Bootcamp: April 2 nd to 4 th , Dublin
  • Module 1 - May 21 st to 24 th , Columbus, Ohio
  • Module 2 - June 25 th to 28 th , Hong Kong
  • Module 3 – September 16 th to 19 th , Lisbon

You can also find out more about what to expect as a Free Electrons start-up, by reading about the 2018 cohort's journey.

About Free Electrons

The Free Electrons Program is the best opportunity for startups in the energy space to grow and develop their businesses. The energy market has seen rapid changes in recent years with the rise of renewables, decentralization of the energy system, regulatory uncertainties and disruptive new technologies. To stay ahead, there is a strong need for utilities to source more innovation externally and consider the ‘beyond utilities’ business models.