Total Energy Ventures: Innovating with Start-ups
Innovation is not just for R&D units and large corporations. Since 2008, Total’s Total Energy Ventures team identifies opportunities for cooperation with energy startups and provides support by investing in them. With more than 2,500 proposals reviewed and investments made in over 2,500 startups since it was established, Total Energy Ventures gives the Group clearer insight into the changes affecting some areas of business and helps it to plan for long-term growth. From biofuels to water treatment, and from the oil technologies of tomorrow to energy storage and networks, the startups supported by Total Energy Ventures help to shape the landscape for better energy – energy that is plentiful, more environmentally friendly, cheaper and easier to access.
LightSail Energy has developed new air compression technology to store energy efficiently and unlock the potential of renewable energy. Their innovative technology allows the absorption of the heat energy of compression for restoration during expansion.
OpenField Technology provides integrated sensor systems for the most demanding environments. Its micro-sensors, easily deployed and based on proprietary technologies, accurately measure fluid properties in the harsh well environment.
Aquion Energy, a company founded in 2008, manufactures sustainable, safe and low-cost saltwater batteries. These batteries are used for stationary applications such as storing electricity from solar panels.
Sunfire GmbH develops and manufactures reversible fuel cells that can both cogenerate electricity and heat from a wide variety of liquid and gaseous fuels and produce synthetic fuels from renewable electricity.
NexSteppe uses advanced breeding techniques and analytical technologies to develop scalable, reliable and sustainable feedstock solutions for the biofuels, biopower and biobased product industries.
A technical achievement. When it is complete, 45,000 people will have worked on the construction of this ultra-efficient refinery.
Total is a committed partner, working shoulder to shoulder with the innovative start-ups it invests in.
In Pursuit of Innovative Energy Start-ups
As part of Total's commitment to a better energy future, Total Energy Ventures constantly monitors the start-ups ecosystem in order to identify, promote and capitalise on breakthrough innovations capable of delivering:
- major improvements in our operations, in terms of safety, effectiveness and environmental footprint;
- new solutions or professional fields, which could in the long term become growth drivers for the Group.
For Total, this monitoring is essential in a world where traditional businesses are now seeing the emergence of start-ups that succeed thanks to innovation, often in the space of just a few years. Start-ups have proliferated in communications, the media, marketing and all forms of financial intermediation. Transportation and energy are also increasingly being affected by these rapid and extensive changes.
It is the revolution in access to knowledge, especially thanks to IT, that has given everyone, everywhere, the ability to innovate. This applies equally to opportunities for pooling skills, publicising and financing projects, and distributing new products and services far and wide.
Innovative start-ups are most often identified through Total Energy Ventures' external networks: private equity players such as start-up incubators, industrial entrepreneurs, investment funds, and public-sector innovation support bodies. They are then analysed with the help of all the Group's innovation stakeholders, in its central management and professional fields.
Selective Investments in Promising Start-ups
When it comes to innovating in mature industries like energy, projects are long, expensive and complex. For Total, a good way of positioning itself in forward-thinking sectors while keeping control of its financial exposure is to invest in innovative start-ups. If they focus on a clear goal, are supported by serious shareholders who bring to bear their expertise and networks, and share the risk over the long term, start-ups are an investment in the future.
The start-ups supported by Total Energy Ventures meet a demanding set of specifications. The chief selection criterion is the learning value for the Group, assessed by a steering committee on which business segments' strategy and R&D teams are represented.
“Total Energy Ventures’ focus is much less short-term than most Venture Capital (VC) investors. The potential to bring new solutions to energy markets has been a key driver in our discussions.” Eric Donzier, CEO Openfield Technologies.
As an investor, Total Energy Ventures also evaluates the quality of a start-up's technological capacity, business plan and management, and carries out a financial analysis to determine the ROI prospects.
“During the due diligence process, Total Energy Ventures displayed a thorough understanding of our technology and the performance criteria associated with the achieving of our objectives. This knowledge, virtually unheard of in a venture capital investor, demonstrated a genuine desire to look beyond a simple return on investment.” K’Lynne Johnson, CEO Elevance.
Ultimately, Total Energy Ventures invests in 1 to 2% of proposals analysed.
Working Shoulder to Shoulder with Start-ups
Total is a committed partner, working shoulder to shoulder with the innovative start-ups it invests in. Total Energy Ventures usually sits on a start-up's board of directors as an observer, and maintains a constant relationship with the management team and other shareholders. The Total Energy Ventures team encourages and facilitates discussions and cooperation between the Group's business units and start-ups. Numerous commercial or technological agreements have been signed or are being prepared.
“We wanted to work with a strategic investor, and we see Europe as a key market both in the early days and over the long term. Total was a logical choice.” Steve Crane, CEO LightSail Energy.
Our commitment is to work even more closely with start-ups, not only in the USA and Europe in the major innovation hubs where we already operate, but also further afield in all growth areas.