18 September 2017, Written by David Simmons


IT'S no secret that the energy sector is undergoing rapid change. Fossil fuels are more often being replaced by renewables like solar and wind to reach clean energy targets set by federal and state governments.

So far, the winning businesses have been those with the foresight to solve current shortcomings and predict future markets - Elon Musk's giant battery in South Australia is just one among many energy-tech inventions which promises to shake up the sector.

A new accelerator program is aiming to increase the rate of disruption even more.

In collaboration with Energy Australia, Startupbootcamp is launching its accelerator in Melbourne to vet the brightest minds in the industry and hopefully uncover the next billion-dollar idea.

EnergyAustralia Next Gen Executive, Andrew Perry, says the accelerator program is an opportunity to unearth fresh thinking and bring innovative ideas to market.

"How often have we seen great ideas born in someone's workshop or garage," asks Perry.

"The accelerator program is about making those great ideas real and developing the next innovation that helps customers use energy in ways that save them money and help the environment.

"In this rapidly changing sector we want to continue meeting the energy needs of our customers and that requires foresight and agility."

Speaking to Business News Australia, the program director of the energy-tech accelerator program Richard Celm (pictured) says Startupbootcamp is looking for highly experienced thinkers who might be able to help solve some of its current energy problems.

"We're really interested in finding people who have great ideas that we think can scale globally, bringing them to an ecosystem, and through our mentor network and industry partners we can create products and send them to market," says Celm.

The program has three main focuses that the best 10 applicants will be able to work on.

These include: energy efficiency (solutions supporting better energy use for homes, buildings, and cities), energy independents (solutions supporting energy access, clean energy, and smart grid technologies) and digitisation & analytics (solutions driven by big data, block chain and artificial intelligence). 

Celm says Melbourne is the ideal location for the accelerator because of Victoria's burgeoning reputation in the energy space.

"The energy accelerator in Australia is centred around Energy Australia who is one of our leading corporate partners here and Spotless who are one of Australia's largest facilities companies," says Celm.

"We have fintech programs and healthtech programs around the world, and they're located in cities where there's a community and corporate structure that would support increasing expertise."

Celm also encourages applications from people who might not have an expertise in energy, but have great adaptable ideas.

"We're actually interested in people who are trying to sell a solution to a bank, for example, but not having much success, and we'll have a look at the technology and the team and think that it is something within the energy industry that could really work," says Celm.

"We tell them to go out, speak to their customer base, talk about their product and validate the pain and then set up experimentations to see whether or not their new assumptions are actually true."

Energy Australia's Andrew Perry says successful applicants will be mentored, coached and advised by industry experts to help build Australia's next successful energy sector disruptor.

"By bringing the best and brightest minds to Melbourne instead of seeking them out in Silicon Valley, we're building on this city's reputation as an innovation hub," says Perry.

"Success means delivering reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for all Australians."

"We're looking for the next wave of innovative ideas to make that happen, whether it be us that pics it up or someone else."

The accelerator will partner the successful innovators with mentors who can pass on some invaluable advice, these include Anne Weatherston, Transformation Executive at Energy Australia, and Beth Henderson, Innovation Analyst at Spotless Group.

Author: David Simmons





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