Diego graduated as electrical engineer, specialising in electronics and automation from the Polytechnical University of Madrid. His first professional experience, in 1988, was as co-founder and CEO of a start-up, Knowledge Engineering, dealing with industrial controls systems using artificial intelligence and neural networks. Three years later he joined SchlumbergerSema, where he headed multicultural working groups all over the world in the field of energy. Between 2002 and 2010, he was the CEO of Atos Origin, a leading international IT service provider. Diego has been CEO of InnoEnergy since 2010.
Tell us about InnoEnergy, your vision and core objectives, and how you go about achieving these objectives?
At InnoEnergy, we have a big challenge, yet a simple goal – to achieve a sustainable energy future for Europe. I am convinced that innovation is the solution. We promote innovation by bringing together ideas, products and services that challenge the status quo, along with new businesses and new people who will deliver them to market.
What’s unique about InnoEnergy is that we support and invest in innovation at every stage of the ‘journey’ – from classroom to end-customer. We do this by working with our network of partners across Europe – ultimately bringing together inventors and industry, graduates and employers, researchers and entrepreneurs, businesses and markets. To summarise, we work in three areas:
- Our education offering creates an informed and ambitious workforce that understands the demands of sustainability and the needs of industry. applications to our Master’s School are open now, for any future game changers out there!
- Our Innovation Projects business line brings together ideas, inventors and industry. By unifying these players, we can fast-track commercially attractive technologies – many of which are now delivering results to customers.
- In Business Creation Services, we support entrepreneurs and start-ups who are expanding Europe’s energy ecosystem with their innovations.
Bringing these disciplines together maximises the impact of each, accelerates the development of market-ready solutions, and creates a fertile environment in which we can sell the innovative results of our work.
What are the key thematic areas that you target with a view to securing a sustainable low-carbon energy future?
Developing a sustainable energy sector is one of the biggest challenges facing Europe today – we must reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, reduce costs in the energy value chain and ensure guaranteed security and safety of energy supply.
There is no single solution that will enable us to overcome these issues, which is why at InnoEnergy we work with entrepreneurs, innovators, industry and universities across eight thematic fields:
Clean coal and gas technologies: Coal, gas and their chemical derivatives still have a major role to play in creating a stable, longterm energy supply. We encourage innovation that will:
- Help reduce emissions of CO2, nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide and particulate matter;
- Make best use of biomass, waste and unconventional gases as well as fossil fuels;
- Support CO2 capture and storage.
Energy efficiency: Reducing consumption at home and work is still the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy security and competitiveness. We encourage innovation in two areas that together account for more than 50 % of the EU’s energy consumption, and at least 33 % of its CO2 emissions:
- Energy efficiency in buildings;
- Energy efficiency in industry.
Energy storage: The way we generate, transmit and distribute power is changing. Energy storage has a vital role to play in the development of the smart grid. We encourage innovation in large and small-scale storage that will:
- Help integrate renewable energy into the grid;
- Enable a more dispersed and responsive distribution system;
- Improve stability across the grid.
Energy from chemical fuels: Chemical energy carriers, derived from converting or processing fossil fuels or biomass resources, can play a significant role in addressing the energy challenge. We encourage innovative solutions that:
- Upgrade and standardise fuels from different feed stocks;
- Enable these fuels to be used in combustion systems, power plants, distribution and storage chains;
- Improve fuel conversion processes for greater efficiency.
Renewable energies: Renewable energy sources play an essential role in reducing dependence on fossil fuels and creating energy autonomy. We encourage innovation that:
- Improves the production, penetration and profitability of renewable energy;
- Continues to develop all forms of solar technology;
- Improves reliability, accuracy and integration of onshore and offshore wind;
- Increases performance, lifespan and scalability of wave power.
Smart electricity grid: The electricity grid is showing its age. Increased use, intermittent generation sources, and new regulations are threatening its ability to deliver low-cost, safe and secure power supply. We encourage new solutions that:
- Enable information, communication and analytics capabilities on a large scale;
- Support enhanced cyber-security and critical infrastructure protection;
- Increase control over intermittent sources of electricity.
Smart and efficient buildings and cities: 40 % of the world’s energy is consumed in the built environment. Energy efficient buildings and cities are key to sustainable development. We foster innovation that:
- Enables energy positive homes and commercial buildings;
- Encourages energy saving behaviours at home and at work;
- Supports a smart and sustainable transport system.
Nuclear instrumentation: Nuclear power remains an important part of a sustainable energy mix, with 60 nuclear reactors under construction around the world. We support innovation in nuclear instrumentation that:
- Improves control and command systems, instrumentation and measurement to ensure reliability and performance;
- Enables materials, structures and radiation to be monitored under the most extreme conditions;
- Supports non-destructive testing and informs decision-making to prolong the life of reactors.
How does the future look for low-carbon technologies in Europe? What are the main challenges that need to be overcome in order to mainstream these technologies?
In order to mainstream these technologies, we must consider a multidimensional approach.
- Regulation – we need to reduce the number of interventions in Europe, that will make us more competitive with the rest of the world. To achieve this, we are working closely with the EU by consulting and advising on the Winter Package.
- Societal appropriation – there is a lot of talk about energy targets, but as citizens, do we take our share of responsibility? Together with our partner network, we strive to educate consumers so that they can become an active, responsible, knowledgeable player within the energy value chain.
- Supply chain – currently Europe invests the majority of its funds into energy supply, but what about the demand side? It’s the public administration that has the muscle when it comes to this challenge, namely public procurement. There are hundreds of ministries, hospitals and education centres that could be the first to adopt sustainable energy technology. So let’s also encourage the public administration to adopt them.
- Value chain – by this I mean that the traditional top down approach to new business ideas, which has always been centralised by way of energy production, is gone. InnoEnergy is already working towards becoming a key enabler of this evolution through our Market Creator initiative where we build new business models for products or services that have previously failed on the market.
- Human capital – we need to feed the market with graduates that can change the game. This is what we strive for in our Master’s School – and we are already seeing many of our graduates receive international acknowledgement for their contribution to the sustainable energy industry. For example, Allen Mohammadi, one of our ENTECH graduates, was recently listed on Forbes 30 under 30.
Lastly, it is fundamental that we coordinate all five dimensions with a systemic approach to low-carbon technologies – only then can we overcome the challenges that face the sector today.
You recently launched a sixth investment round for innovation projects. What opportunities are available under this round and what do applicants need to do to access these opportunities?
Taking a clean energy idea from a light bulb moment to a powering- the-light bulb moment takes money. But, for those of us who have tried, we know that financial investment alone won’t get you there.
Our Investment Round
, open until 7 April, is all about providing more than monetary support to help proven technology concepts change the future of the energy industry.
All projects supported by us have a solid business case and the consortium has at least one European partner. The uniqueness of this ecosystem provides projects with:
- Exclusive manpower to find complementary partners to develop their technology;
- Expertise in market analysis, business models, IP and industrialisation;
- A thriving supply side, for example our start-ups, and a thriving demand side (the early adopters and first customers of the product), many of whom are our partners;
- Reduced financial risk, an agreed ROI and ongoing actions to make sure their product is successful in the market.
It is a win, win, win situation – your success is our success, which contributes to a sustainable energy future for Europe.
What type of projects related to low-carbon technologies have you supported to date, and what has been the impact of these projects?
Since 2011, the Investment Round has successfully supported projects to raise EUR 1.3 billion, with InnoEnergy investing EUR 157 million and the remainder being funded by partner companies and investors. This has resulted in the creation of 299 partners across Europe, with 83 products now commercially viable and linked to EUR 3 billion in forecasted sales.
All of our projects fall within one of our thematic fields, some of which include: thermal chemical heat pumps from SolabCool
; straw powered bio mass boilers from MetalERG
; energy independent housing from evohaus
; building-integrated photovoltaics from EnerBIM
; proactive cyber-security management from foreseeti
and wind turbine condition-monitoring systems from EC Systems
– to name a few.