TechConnect speaks with William Rensink, GameChanger at Shell GameChanger.
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?
Open innovation has steadily risen to occupy a key position in Shell’s innovation strategy, primarily because the growing complexity of today’s energy system means that no single company can develop all the solutions needed to meet energy demand responsibly. Next year, in 2016, our oldest open innovation initiative, GameChanger, will celebrate its 20th year of looking for disruptive and radical energy-related ideas in a wide range of disciplines to tackle some of the world’s most important and challenging issues. A few focus areas along the value chain in which Shell participates: Increased oil recovery using novel materials that can alter the porous structure of the reservoir; natural gas densification at low cost and high efficiency; novel separation methods for gas mixtures; the conversion of natural gas to chemicals; energy storage and integration; and efficiency in operations by the recovery of low grade waste heat.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
Shell’s innovation strategy as a whole is maturity agnostic, however GameChanger’s focus is on early stage conceptual ideas that already have some background IP developed. GameChanger is advantageously positioned to support high-risk, high pay-off technology innovations that have the potential to break through the current incremental improvement curves incurves in a radical and disruptive way. Our goal is to collaborate together to quickly bring these ideas and technologies to proof of concept and ideally, help sustain the relationship with any of the relevant Shell businesses after proof-of-concept to support and enable further development by other investors.
Please describe your company’s Innovation model and how this model helps to find new innovations.
At Shell, our open innovation model consists of several different programs to suit external technology companies’ needs and requirements at every stage of maturity, geography and business model. For a large organization like Shell, these programs are necessary to ensure the characteristics and skill-sets of entrepreneurs and startups that we find so valuable – agility, speed of development and deployment, and creativity – are protected and optimized. This creates space to bring our strengths – deep technical knowledge, scaling and access to global markets – to the table so both organizations can benefit. GameChanger looks at early stage technologies and provides non-dilutive funding to bring these technologies to proof of concept and prototyping.
We also connect with small businesses – especially those within SBIR programs - to identify the brightest and best start-ups and technologies across the globe. Shell Technology Ventures, our venture capital arm, makes equity investments in early stage companies with a focus on deployment value for an already proven technology or product in the oil and gas industry, as well as in strategic technologies in clean tech. Shell TechWorks incorporates de-risked technologies from other industries like aerospace, defense and medical to solve challenges in our industry. In addition, we have 100 years of collaboration history in extramural research with universities and technical institutions in research and development.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
TechConnect draws on a large community of technology providers, entrepreneurs and research institutions, as well as customers and end-users of these technologies. As the summit cuts across different industries and disciplines such as biotech, nanotech, energy etc., this creates opportunities to identify and develop connections that are otherwise difficult identify and establish. We believe that exposing our challenges and opportunities to the broadest audience increases the potential to create unusual but valuable collaborations.
What did you like most about the 2014 conferences?
TechConnect brings together a broad international audience and offers the opportunity to communicate technology needs and challenges across this audience this is enabled both by the talks as well as the showcase.