To the mining, oil and gas, and power and utility organisations that comprise the ENR sector, embracing innovation is not a new concept. Most, if not all, of the organisations that we work with have implemented internal innovation programs that seek to identify the best ideas from their workforce to address these challenges. Many are engaged in collaborative research with tertiary institutions to apply research in search of solutions. Partnerships with major equipment suppliers have yielded numerous examples of co-designed solutions to some of these problems. However, breakthrough innovations with the ability to deliver step change improvements in cost, productivity, social, environmental and safety performance remain are hard to find.
Some challenges still remain.
Sustained lower commodity prices and declining multi-factor productivity are putting increasing pressure on margins. Rising community expectations are challenging operators to strengthen their social and environmental performance in order to maintain their licence to operate. Organisations are looking for new and sustainable ways to embed a safety culture that ensures that all workers can return home safely to their families at the end of their shift. And in all of these areas and many more, ENR companies are looking to innovation to deliver the solutions that will underpin their companies’ competitiveness in an increasingly global marketplace.
We believe that there is an additional, relatively untapped source of powerful innovation that our ENR sector needs to embrace in order to enhance their global competitiveness and sustainability – the startup sector.
Unconstrained by the conventional thinking and layers of organisational red-tape that inhibit true disruptive ideas from flourishing, startups are able to rapidly test hypotheses around the application of emerging ideas and technologies, channelling these learnings into new solutions to challenging problems. Yet few major ENR corporations effectively engage with startups as a source of external innovation.
In 2015, we decided to ask ‘why?’ and ‘what can we do to change it?’
The answer was Energise – KPMG Australia’s ENR sector startup accelerator program an innovative 12-week program to drive greater collaboration – innovative tech startups and established major resources conglomerates. It is a powerful combination of talent.
In the first iteration of the program, we helped 8 startups enhance their ability to connect with major clients, and together they generated over half a million dollars in sales and pilot contracts by the end of the 12-week program.
During this process, we discovered a few key insights:
- Corporates (not just startups) can derive impressive game-changing value from the interaction
- The ability to engage with external sources of innovation differs dramatically across corporations.
- Engagement between startups and large corporations can be far better facilitated by clearly defining roles and expectations well ahead of time.
- There is a strong interest and demand from the national ENR sector in working with startups to leverage new technologies.
The approach for ENR companies must evolve to take advantage of the opportunities of Australia’s fast evolving startup sector. It’s a win-win equation, but the stakes for our national economy and dealing with global disruption are high if we can’t get startup innovation built into the DNA of our most important industries.