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Pursuing partnerships for innovation

Veolia partners with startups and SMEs to develop new solutions for smart cities

French environmental services giant Veolia is collaborating with small-and-medium enterprises and startups in Singapore to come up with solutions to tackle environmental challenges, by inviting them to participate in its Open Inovasi programme. The company launched the Open Inovasi programme in February this year, in an effort reach out to Singapore-based innovators for ideas on how to boost the transition towards smart cities.

The Open Inovasi programme is an offshoot of Veolia Innovation Accelerator, global open innovation platform to connect with startups and SMEs around the globe. With support from SPRING Singapore and partnering French multinationals Bouygues Construction, automotive company PSA Group, and Thales Group, a global technology leader in the defence, security, aerospace and transportation markets, Open Inovasi intends to find new solutions for the future cities

Veolia Innovation Accelerator receives around 200 proposals yearly from promising startups and SMEs. The applicants' proposals will be assessed and the selected ones get matched with the relevant business units and corporate experts. Several business contracts have been signed between the innovators and Veolia as a result of open innovation activities, said TechInnovation 2016 speaker Emmi Kaipio.

“It really shows that new business is created through these partnerships and that way, the innovative companies get new business opportunities. Multi-national companies (MNCs) keep up to date with their offerings so it is a win-win situation,” said Kaipio. Open Inovasi has received about 50 proposals for its first innovation calls. The proposals are now under assessment, she said.

Dedicated to a sustainable environment

Veolia has a rather large presence in Singapore – on top of establishing a research centre Veolia City Modelling Center here, it provides a whole spectrum of environmental services including integrated waste management, industrial services, public cleansing and water technologies. It employs more than 800 workers in Singapore alone and 178000 globally.

Kaipio is Open Innovation Officer at Veolia City Modelling Center Singapore, one of Veolia's seven research centres around the world built to study and develop urban environment solutions.

“Environmental issues are one of the biggest challenges the world is facing today making it impossible for businesses to ignore the need for innovations,” said Kaipio, who joined the Veolia City Modelling Center in January. 

Kaipio, who hails from Finland, a country known for its progressive stance towards environmental protection, said the changing business environment requires companies to renew and stay competitive, in an effort to serve clients with the best solutions. “This is especially important in environmental services as we have the potential to deploy new, innovative solutions that will minimise the impact on the environment,” she added.

Despite being in its inaugural year the partners already have expansion plans for Open Inovasi. “In addition to regular new innovation calls, Open Inovasi will be developed further and we have exciting plans for coming year to form a more structured support approach around the platform , said Kaipio. Selected innovators who apply to the calls will get the support they need for growth in addition to the coaching and industry insights from MNCs. “We are also inviting new MNC partners on board and we work  on involving the investors more closely to the process,” she said.

Kaipio has long been interested in sustainability, particularly the idea of integrating it in all businesses. “So I ended up studying sustainable development and environmental management,” she said. She studied environmental sciences in Turku University of Applied Sciences in Finland and Universidad de Extremadura in Spain and Business in Universidad de Chile. In 2012, she graduated with a Masters in Economics in Corporate Environmental Management from Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics  , also in Finland.

Before joining the Veolia City Modelling Centre, she worked for the Finnish Cleantech Cluster program in Finland for five years. “The objective of the program was to support the cleantech sector growth in Scandinavia by helping the cleantech companies to go international and by attracting foreign investments into these companies,” she said.

“During that time Veolia was establishing new regional innovation accelerator approach in Scandinavia and we partnered with them to make it happen as we saw collaboration with MNCs as a good way for smaller companies to scale up. I was part of the founding team of Nordic Innovation Accelerator which has been since connecting MNCs across the industry boarders with innovators in Scandinavia,” she explained.

“To enhance the regional outreach and based on the positive experiences in Scandinavia Veolia decided to establish similar online platform in Singapore and idea of Open Inovasi was born,” she added.

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