EIC Corporate Day with BBVA and Ferrovial: exploring new roads for cooperation
The European Innovation Council (EIC), in collaboration with BBVA and Ferrovial, organised an online Corporate Day on 26 and 27 May 2020, bringing together 19 EIC-backed SMEs with over 50 corporates representatives. The online Corporate Day was the second event of its kind to be organised this month and gave SMEs and corporate representatives the opportunity to find synergies and explore business opportunities and further collaborations.
The event gathered 19 highly innovative SMEs and two of Spain’s largest corporates, BBVA, a multinational financial service provider and Ferrovial, a global operator of sustainable infrastructure. Jean-David Malo, Director of the EIC, opened the session by highlighting this aspect and thanking BBVA and Ferrovial for co-hosting this fully digital event: “Ferrovial and BBVA are important partners for us, I congratulate them for the development of innovation in Europe.” He also took the opportunity to welcome and congratulate the participating start-ups, emphasising that “being awarded the EIC-grant is one thing, but being selected by BBVA and Ferrovial is an even greater achievement. I am sure it’s only the first step of more good news down the road.” Delivering the other key-note speech at the event, Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO of TheVentureCity and EIC Advisory Board Member, assessed the current state of innovation in Europe with a healthy dose of optimism:
“Do we have the tools? Yes. The ingredients for the cake? Yes. Some of the best schools in the world? Yes! What are we missing then? We are not agile enough. If we solve this problem, we will be number one again, no question about it.” She expressed her hopes to attract founders back to Europe: “I think we will see a lot of founders and start-ups coming back to Europe. We are still the place to be. Any innovator in the world, European or not, can build their companies and empires here!”
Open innovation in the truest sense of the word
For BBVA and Ferrovial it was the second time that they joined forces with the EIC to co-host a Corporate Day. Ignacio Villoch, Open Innovation Ecosystem Builder at BBVA, was well aware of the benefits of working with the EIC: “We are confident what EIC can deliver for us and we are happy to try again in the future. We know the potential and what we can get from it.” Although both corporates organised Corporate Days with the EIC before, it was the first time BBVA and Ferrovial jointly hosted. For Ignacio the collaboration was an obvious one: “We already engage with Ferrovial in different businesses, we felt there were synergies worth to explore”. Ciro Acedo, Head of Open Innovation Ecosystem at Ferrovial added that “shaping the event and format and having the EIC on board, means we have three organisations thinking about the same goal. That makes everything easier.” According to Manuel Martinez and Barbara Fernandez, respectively Head of Open Innovation and Head of Business Innovation Liason at Ferrovial, this event will also open the possibility for further cooperation between corporates: “What are we starting to do, is to look at partners from other sectors, because inspiration could be there. Corporate Days are a perfect opportunity for just that”, added Barbara.
BBVA and Ferrovial pre-selected the 19 SMEs that were present. The pitching session were divided among the corporates, but nonetheless this also proved to be an excellent opportunity for finding synergies, as noted by Ainhoa Campo, Head of Open Innovation at BBVA: “One of my colleagues was listening to an SME pitching to Ferrovial and was very interested. We are looking into the opportunity of doing something between the three of us.” For Ainhoa the word ‘open’ innovation says it all: “the ecosystem should be open to everyone and other corporates are actors here as well.” The event was a perfect opportunity to look beyond the technology and Ignacio already noticed "some initial tractions": “We learned that a good idea of a bad team will not go anywhere, a lesser idea with a good team will do better“. Manuel concluded that he saw plenty of opportunities for further collaboration with the SMEs: “The quality was very good. After the pitches, colleagues already wrote me to say they were interested in some of the ideas pitched.”
Newcomers finding synergies
Lee Fenney from UK-based Imetrum, only joined the EIC-programme last month and immediately had the opportunity to attend a Corporate Day. Perfect timing according to Lee; “The grant has given us the freedom to look into our technology, but to make that final step into manufacturing we need a large partner. That’s were a corporate like Ferrovial comes into play.” Getting access to corporates can, at times, be hard, especially now without physical meetings and networking. Oscar Richae, representing Svelte from Romania, was glad that these digital opportunities still arise and give him access: “If the EIC was not involved in creating this link, it’s hard to get to decision makers from large corporates. Funding is half of the work; the other half is a good network to develop your business and technology further.” Kristine Fossbakk, from Norwegian Joma International, was another firstcomer to the EIC events:
“If we weren’t chosen today, we would never been in this position like today. There are so many of us (SMEs), how can Ferrovial decide if you have 100 companies coming to you? The companies that are on the table now are ones in which they see potential and great ideas. The selection process has been taken care of, the corporates can trust the companies, that they have something new.”
The EIC Corporate Days always boast a high number of corporate representatives from different business lines. Sandra Magro Ruiz, from Spain’s Creandro Redes, also a first-time EIC-attendee, welcomed the opportunity to connect with all these different business lines: “we talked with Global Risk, Sustainability, the business core of the organisation itself. It’s very nice to have their feedback.” Some even found possible collaborations and synergies between themselves, as was the case for Sandra: “These two days also gave us the opportunity to look at the other start-ups and I already noted down a few that we can potentially work with.”
Are you curious to experience a EIC Corporate Day yourself? The EIC hosts multiple corporate days per month, for the moment fully online, with applications running through the EIC Community. Those wishing to meet with Europe’s largest corporates and fellow EIC-beneficiaries, please keep an eye on our calendar.