Veolia Innovation Accelerator (VIA) more than delivered the goods in time to celebrate its first birthday at San Francisco's Cleantech Forum and to announce the first five start-ups selected. Half of the occupational fields that will exist at Veolia Environnement in 10 years time do not exist today. Research and innovation are more strategic than ever to create and shape the future of environmental services.
Developing the best ecotechnologies
VIA is an original initiative to scout, assess and deploy the best ecotechnologies developed by start-ups.
"More than financing, start-ups need an industrial company's ability to deploy their technology, a distribution channel and markets," said Philippe Martin, Veolia Environnement's Senior Vice-President, Research & Innovation, at the program's launch in San Francisco and later in Paris alongside Antoine Frérot, Veolia Environnement's Chairman & CEO. One year later, in March 2011, five rather than four partnerships as originally planned were announced at the annual Cleantech event on the United State's West coast.
This successful first step demonstrates "the capacity of a very large company such as ours to quickly roll out a large-scale, developmental operation to scout and incorporate cutting edge or disruptive innovations. It is a collective success, made possible by team work between the Veolia research staff, corporate departments and operational units involved in each of the program's steps," says a pleased Marie-Anne Brodschii, Vice-President, Innovation.
VIA's success with start-ups owes a great deal to an original sequence, dubbed "1/4/12":
- 1 week to assess whether an innovative technology falls within Veolia Environnement's business scope;
- 4 weeks to study and validate the innovation if needed;
- and 12 weeks to scout partnership opportunities and initiate a collaboration between a start-up and the company's four divisions.
Appeals of the VIA program for start-ups
It is a tight schedule that matches the pace of growth of start-ups.
"Our R&I teams have unparalleled know-how to help us assess and seize such opportunities as best we can. VIA has instigated a sort of cultural revolution within the company, having said that it is a great project and an original and powerful collective intelligence tool to maintain our lead in the very staked-out field of cleantech," says a pleased Robert Bozza, Vice-President, Competitive Intelligence.
Another major appeal of the program for start-ups is the unmatched springboard provided by the international operations of our four divisions.
It is the divisions that incorporate the techno logical advances into their products and solutions downstream, to offer creative, effective solutions to customers. In the future, Research & Innovation teams will further fine-tune selection processes, to closely align their choices with the needs of divisions and the various markets.
VIA also plans to set its sights on Asia in the near future.