An Energy Transition Business Camp in the heart of the German “Energiewende”

The big question in the energy industry is what is it going to take to facilitate the energy transition? The obvious answers come to mind… innovative ideas, governmental support, project funding and research to name a few. However, we need to perhaps look deeper into what is going to drive these things? Someone has to come up with the ideas and make them viable, lobby for legislature, persuade backers to receive funding, or tirelessly research to find solutions. When we consider what it’s actually going to take to achieve the energy transition, the real answer becomes clear – passion. Because without passion, none of these things are possible.

This Spring, engineering students from around the globe were invited to demonstrate their passion. They pitched their ideas for an innovative energy product or service, and a lucky few won their spot at the first ever Energy Transition Business Camp. The 24 winners gathered in Karlsruhe, the heart of the German “Energiewende,” challenging themselves to put their best ideas, technical know-how, entrepreneurial savvy and team-working skills to the test. They networked with fellow participants, experts and mentors; developed their storytelling and pitching skills and were really able to experience the highs, lows, fun and pressure that energy entrepreneurs face on a daily basis. The action-packed and non-stop schedule gave them a taste of real-life for successful entrepreneurs, and they all learned what it takes: a passion for innovation and a sustainable future.

Collaboration with Strong Partners
InnoEnergy Master’s School teamed up with AXEL – The Energy Accelerator (a supporter of early-stage energy start-ups) to create this comprehensive 4-day summer camp on energy business creation. Christos Klamouris, Sr. Project Manager shares, “We collaborated with InnoEnergy to offer this business camp because we truly believe that their Master’s programmes will allow these students to go deeper than a traditional programme. They offer something totally unique with their three-sided approach of education, innovation and business creation services. We feel these things are imperative to create innovation and a sustainable future. They are a strong partner for us since our mission is to help grow ideas into saleable products by giving energy engineers the knowledge they need in ALL areas, especially business, so that they can become a successful energy entrepreneur.”

Skill Development
Christos explains, “Many energy engineers have great ideas – but they can be too focused on one main technical part, have a hard time involving others in their vision, or even can be unable to see the ‘big picture’. Therefore, they lack the ability to bring their ideas to market. This is why we focus on these students at this stage, when we can help them the most by giving them the tools and knowledge they need to develop their ideas into promising business models. We know these workshops can greatly improve their business and presentation skills and introduce them to AXEL – The Energy Accelerator which offers invaluable access to testing labs, mentors, coaches, researchers and academic institutions.”

The Art of the Pitch
The students pitched their energy project ideas on day one of the event, breaking into teams after voting for the best concepts. They spent many hours fine-tuning, working with their coaches, and hearing inspirational talks from sustainable energy pioneers, founders and leaders such as Matthias Willenbacher (author of “My indecent Proposal to the German Chancellor. Because we cannot let the Energy Transition fail”). During the downtime activities, they still talked excitedly about their projects and continuously bounced ideas off each other. Then on the last day, the teams shared their final presentations to supportive applause – showcasing their newly acquired skills and hard work. It was amazing to see how far they had come in only four days! And while the winners of the final pitch proudly walked away with tickets to a Formula E race, they all knew they had won to be there in the first place – and it was clear that all the participants felt like they had taken something truly valuable from the experience.

Common Goals for the Future
Across the board, when asked what the participants’ ambitions are for the energy transition the answer was a resounding switch to 100% renewable energy. They know the challenges they will face to achieve this, yet every one of them named this as THE goal to attain. A perfect example of how obstacles don’t matter when you have passion and focus. They recognise that these challenges can and will be overcome… and as they left Karlsruhe to return to their home countries, we know that every single one of them is on the path to making this happen.