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During ChangeNOW 2021, Veolia launched "Open Playground" to co co-construct the innovations of the future with ecological transformation startups

ChangeNOW 2021 brought together 500 speakers from all over the world from May 27 to 29 in Paris, sharing 1,000 solutions for the planet during 250 hours of online exchanges. Veolia, a flagship company in the field of ecological transformation, launched Open Playground (May 28): a new Open Innovation program to co-construct the Group's future solutions alongside startups involved in the ecological transformation.

The Veolia model is essentially collaborative

Successful ecological transformation means collectively building the solutions that will enable us to respond to the climate emergency. With this in mind, Veolia has launched Open Playground, a program for sharing expertise that brings together a number of startups committed to the planet and Veolia teams. This six-month challenge, which can be extended once, is aimed at startups, scale-ups, SMEs and mid-sized companies, and will build innovative solutions for the ecological transformation.

Veolia's model is essentially collaborative: the solutions we roll out across the world have been invented in the past together with our clients and partners. Today, with Open Playground, we are drawing on the agility of startups: we are immersing them in the heart of our business problems and providing them with facilities and experts to give them the means to invent tomorrow's ecological innovations with us.
Claire Falzone
Director of Innovation at Veolia


For 10 startups: a unique and personalized experience within Veolia

The objective of Open Playground is to respond to the business challenges posed by Veolia's Business Units (BUs) which have the potential to provide new services to their customers. Ten startups will be selected in the first year for a six-month period of collaboration with the BU, with a single point of contact within the Open Innovation team and personalized support. The 10 startups will be immersed in Veolia's sites and will be given the means to deliver a first pilot project. If successful, the team will have another six months to finalize an industrial partnership. This program is open to any startup, scale-up, SME or mid-sized company capable of designing an industrial-scale pilot project with an international scope in six months.


1st stage: a reverse pitch at ChangeNOW

Under ChangeNOW's "accelerate the ecosystem" theme, 4 Veolia experts responsible for innovation participated in a reverse pitch session to present their challenges to the pre-selected startups. In her introduction, Claire Falzone explained:

"We asked Veolia's operational managers to explain the issues that are still unresolved in their respective businesses, and the challenges with which they need help to find solutions. The idea of this Open Playground is to present you with the challenges drawn from our BUs, on a digital platform, and bring together your ideas in order to roll them out globally."


> Four environmental issues from the field were discussed, out of the six posed in this first Open Playground event:

  • Simple and cost-effective supply chain tracking and tracing, both upstream such as for plastics, and downstream such as for composts or secondary raw materials. Pitcher: Philip Abraham - Senior Vice President - Special projects - Asia, for Veolia Asia and North America.
  • Solutions for micro-circularity and autonomous housing. Pitcher: Sébastien Chauvin - CEO Middle East Veolia for the Africa Middle East zone. 
  • Innovative solutions for waste and unsold goods in the fashion, textile and luxury industry. Pitcher: Alice Robin - Innovation and Recovery Manager - Waste France for Veolia France and North America.
  • Waste recovery from the food industry. Pitcher: Robert Brown - Vice President - Strategy & Corporate Development - North America, for Veolia Asia and North America.


Two other challenges have been made available on line by our business units:

  • What solutions would allow us to detect and remove lithium batteries from incoming non-hazardous waste streams (from the "yellow bins"), in order to avoid dangerous situations (fires, explosions) at our sorting sites? (BU Germany).
  • How can we track all our "small" safety equipment with control and expiry dates? (Environmental Maintenance Industry and Building Department).


The startups:

Arnaud de la Tour - CEO of Hello Tomorrow, Mafalda Morais - Business Developer for, Alexandre Guilluy- founder of Les Alchimistes, Basile Verhulst - GSC Technologies, founder and CEO and Ana Selina Haberbosch - Seedtrace, CEO and co-founder, talked online with Veolia managers.



Timetable and guidelines for Veolia's Open Playground

Guidelines: you are a start-up or a scale-up and you think you can help Veolia to meet one of the proposed challenges: fill in the form before 28 June 2021. If your profile is short-listed, you will be contacted during the summer to fine-tune your application with a kick-off in October 2021.

  • 28 May - 28 June 2021: startups can register via the online form.

  • Summer 2021: selection of candidates with our partners, BUs and Open Innovation team and discussions with shortlisted candidates. 

  • September 2021: the final responses to all applicants, pre-selection of startups and co-construction of a roadmap. Creation of the team, needs analysis and immersive learning at the heart of the company in relation to its culture and procedures right through to developing the industrial trial.

  • March 2022: initial assessment of the viability of the industrial pilot project and selection of start-ups.

  • September 2022: second proof of concept and framework contract to roll out the ecological innovation.

In May 2021, Veolia is launching a new programme for start-ups: Open playground by Veolia.


Veolia session on 28 May: Ecological Innovations - Reverse Pitches
ChangeNOW 2021 Summit

In becoming the benchmark company for ecological transformation, Veolia is committing to accelerating and expanding the deployment of existing solutions, while simultaneously creating the solutions of tomorrow.