One of the most significant indicators of automation technology’s rapid advance is the number of technology companies launching venture capital funds to take part in the newest developments. A few years ago, we covered the launch of Siemens Venture Capital Unit to target potential disruptive technologies. Since then we’ve also learned of similar funds at companies such as ABB and Rockwell Automation.
More recently, I learned that Schneider Electric has also launched a venture capital fund—Schneider Electric Ventures. Through funding, incubation and partnerships, Schneider Electric Ventures has committed to investing between 300 and 500 million euros on “innovations that will make a major contribution to future sustainability and energy efficiency.”
Heriberto Diarte, who handles corporate ventures and external innovation at Schneider Electric, says that “when start-ups are looking to solve problems, we can help them understand the value of the problem they’re looking to fix. We can also help them fine tune products, provide capital, test products and then help them go to market and scale their operations.”
Though Schneider Electric Ventures was formally announced at the company’s Innovation Summit North America in November, Diarte says the company has been investing in start-ups for a year. Some of the companies Schneider Electric has already invested in include: Sense, a supplier of power load disaggregation technology; Element Analytics, a supplier of industrial Big Data analytics technology; Habiteo, a 3D specialist for new residential housing; QMerit, a company Schneider Electric refers to as the “Uber” for contractors as well as maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) spend; KGS, a predictive engine technology for just-in-time maintenance; and Claroty, a supplier of cybersecurity technology for industrial operational technology (OT) networks.
Based on the company’s investment plans, Schneider Electric says it will focus on three major projects in 2019:
- eIQ Mobility, which accelerates electric mobility at scale by providing an "electric fleet as a service " to large commercial fleets.
- Clipsal Solar, a business venture for on-grid and off-grid systems for residential and commercial applications in Australia, where 1.8 million homeowners have installed solar panels to help manage energy bills.
- Greentown Labs Bold Ideas Challenge, a project focused on fast-tracking entrepreneurs by providing the mentors, team members, grants, and business and technical resources they need to launch successful ventures.
Underscoring Schneider Electric’s extension into venture funding, Schneider Electric Chairman and CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire said, “Fifteen years ago, Schneider Electric was mostly a product company. Going into digital means living with your customer and resolving pain points. Our focus on products was not enough.”