Climate change projections are getting more alarming more urgent.

As such, consumers and employees demand brands to take action, and governments are implementing aggressive environmental and climate regulations.

It’s clear we can’t continue with business as usual: we need new solutions at scale- fast. As innovators, we know that’s easier said than done. For starters, it needs serious commitment and support from the company’s leadership, in words and actions. Beyond that, it requires a dedicated and somewhat separate entity that can leverage the mothership’s assets but won’t be swallowed by the priorities of the day to day.

Here's how Lufthansa, bp and Enel are organized to innovate for sustainability.

Sustainovation - Insights from Sensing, Seizing and Transforming Opportunities at Lufthansa

The travel industry is at a breakneck pace of innovation, particularly in light of climate change and COVID-19 coming together to create unique and comprehensive challenges. Tino Klaehne, Head of Strategic Design at the Lufthansa Innovation Hub, describes how one of the largest airline groups in the world is trying to tackle the problem.

The Lufthansa Innovation Hub is Lufthansa Group's primary unit for the development of new business in the digital context. Its efforts focus on what the group calls "Travel and Mobility Tech", defined tightly in scope but reaching beyond the core business strategy of the airline giant. The mission: create and capture value beyond flying.

As such, the Innovation Hub walks between two worlds. The Lufthansa Group's primary purpose matters, but so does the larger travel mobility tech ecosystem. Positioned between the two, the Innovation Hub looks towards the long-term future on the third innovation horizon. It was created with a vision to own a share in every trip, regardless of whether that includes flying or any other mode of travel.

The Three Innovation Muscles Within the Dynamic Capability Framework

Under that vision, the Innovation Hub is structured within the Dynamic Capability Framework. Three core capabilities, or innovation muscles, drive the process and structure: sense, seize, and transform.


The sense capability describes being able to spot opportunities or threats in the business environment early, continuously, and in a systematic fashion. For Lufthansa, that meant making sense of the larger system of sustainability, and understanding the players and category as a whole, before really digging into the opportunities presented within.

Within this muscle, the Lufthansa Innovation Hub developed a few core activities:

  • An innovation hypothesis that described exactly how Lufthansa should contribute to sustainability
  • A systematized approach to research and signal scanning, using tools like aggregation tools like Feedly, venture capital partnerships, Google search trend analysis, media sentiment analysis, and more
  • A knowledge-sharing system, using the public website, to drive not just Lufthansa but the entire industry forward on the topic of innovation


The second capability, seize, frames Lufthansa's capability to turn opportunities sensed into actual benefits. For Lufthansa, this means building ventures, taking ideas to execution, and partnering with existing solutions to take them further.

For example, Lufthansa built Compensaid, a flight offsetting platform that allowed customers to offset their carbon impact of flying through CO2-neutral aviation fuels. A 130,000€ investment resulting in 23 million Euro in media value equivalency through news coverage and industry awareness. Other projects, like an offset API designed to help travel platforms like offer their own offsetting models, is following the same success path.

Seizing can also include external partnerships. For example, the 2019 Open innovation Challenge for startups, in partnerships with companies like Google, Uber, and Expedia, resulted in more than 150 applications from 41 countries, with five finalists invited to pitch their startups to the partners, jury, and senior management.


Finally, sensing and seizing only work with the third capability of transformation, describing the organization's ability to change and rearrange the resources to support sustainable innovation. No matter how great the opportunity and venture model to seize it, corporate has to be on board to bring it through to conclusion.

Lufthansa's Innovation Hub has plenty of activities built-in to support this innovation muscle. A dedicated team focuses on promoting and embedding both innovation and sustainability across all levels of the global corporation. Activities include:

  • A custom tool kit, including anything from a business model canvas to a custom card game, freely available for anyone participating in events and workshops
  • Workshops for Lufthansa Group management trainees, embedding the concept early in the training stages
  • Virtual events for all levels of the organization
  • A corporate-wide innovation forum with 600 attendees listening to keynotes, attending workshops, viewing exhibits of existing innovation work, and more

The 9 Factors of Success at Lufthansa's Innovation Hub

Lufthansa's Innovation Hub has been successful due to nine factors, derived from learnings and lessons over its course of existence:

  1. A holistic setup with a full stack of innovation capabilities
  2. Fast timing that ranges from finding ideas to start and iterate quickly
  3. The right toolset, skillet, and mindset
  4. Formats and channels that scale easily, with a mix of broadcasting and 1:1 penetration
  5. Over-communication to demystify innovation, educate, and inspire
  6. An entrepreneurial spirit designed to place bets that win big
  7. Grit and persistence to turn innovation from a one-time gig into continuous success
  8. Connections across and outside of the organization to identify and acquire early adopters
  9. Humility and an enablement spirit that follows the golden rule.

With these factors, the whole becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. It's how Lufthansa has been able to drive innovations in sustainability that have the potential to shape the travel industry for decades to come.

Scaling at Speed: A New Approach to Business Building at bp

When a major corporation changes strategic gears, innovation has to become a core enabler. Cathal Hughes, investment associate at bp Launchpad, discusses how the global energy giant's innovation effort has allowed it to scale new ideas fast and sustainably.

A New Strategy at bp

The background at Launchpad has to come with the larger organizational context. In 2020, bp announced a new strategy that would see it becoming a net zero company by 2050, transforming its business from an international oil company to an integrated energy company delivering solutions rather than producing resources, reimagining energy for everyone on the planet.

Six core beliefs drove the strategy shift:

  • The world will electrify, with renewables at the center
  • Customers will redefine convenience and mobility
  • Oil and gas will remain part of the energy mix, but its nature will change
  • Energy systems are becoming increasingly complex
  • Customers, countries, cities, and industries will demand bespoke energy solutions
  • Digital solutions will continue to transform our lives, driving innovation and market value.

The new strategy aims to account for all of these beliefs through aims like reducing methane, increasing investments into non oil and gas businesses, and becoming an industry leader in clean energy and caring for the planet. To get to that point, the organization took a comprehensive look at its innovation ecosystem.

The Three Innovation Units at bp

In light of its new strategy, bp considers its innovation ecosystem as a three-way front. Each piece interacts with the others, but has very different priorities and emphases to contribute to the greater whole:

  1. bp ventures operates as a traditional venture fund, through minority investments focused on high-growth technology. The fund invests from seed all the way through Series D, looking for the traditional CVC exit returns model. To date, bp ventures has invested in 40 startups, resulting in 9 successful exits.
  2. Incubation is designed to bring new ideas from 0 to 1. It's designed for early-stage ideas and concepts, designed to reach MVP status through business model testing. Its 3 to 6 month program is open to both internal and external ideas, with successful candidates graduating into Launchpad.
  3. Launchpad aims to get conceptualized ideas to commercialization. Its focus combines deep business building support with rapid scaling, designed to build and scale a portfolio of new energy businesses. The focus is purely digital, with products only relevant when they are adjacent to bp's business model.

The innovation ecosystem also consists of internal expert groups and R&D groups, along with strategic partnerships, accelerators, incubators, and even academic relationships. Ideas come into the incubation project, before Launchpad brings those that have proven successful as initial concepts from 1 to 100.

Launchpad: An Innovation Driver to Get Ideas From 1 to 100

Launchpad's mission statement is simple: to generate sustainable change by scaling a progressive portfolio of digitally-led businesses and disruptive startups that reimagine energy for people and the planet.

In other words, this is a project designed to invest in disruptive tech, with a focus on scaling and speeding up startups and ideas to multi-million dollar revenues and global operations. The ideal timeline for that process: two to five years.

To convince others to work within that framework and for the benefit of bp, Launchpad presents a three-fold offer:

  1. Capital injection, designed to enable accelerated growth with multi-year funding opportunities based on milestones
  2. bp's unique capabilities, including immediate opportunities to sell within bp, access to real-world data sets, established domain expertise, and global relationships
  3. Access to business building experts, including anything from HR to operations, procurement, commercial growth, marketing, tech, and finance and legal consulting.

To receive these benefits, startups have to be digitally enabled, generate product-based revenues, and operate in growing markets where bp can provide a strategic advantage. To date, that has led to a portfolio of five companies, with several more planned.

7 Lessons Learned From the New Innovation Process at bp

With Launchpad only three years old, bp has drawn some crucial learnings that are applicable for any other internal innovation commercialization programs:

  1. Willingness to change is a top priority. Not all will be perfect, and failing fast as well as adapting as you go is vital to success. Launchpad learned this the hard way when its own structure had to be adjusted to account for its more narrow focus
  2. Culture is key. That culture must be intentional, with clearly defined and demonstrated values that are different from the core business. For Launchpad, that culture revolves around hustle, energizing, love, and pioneering
  3. Define your why. A clear mission statement allows the team to align correctly, minimizing varying interpretation of why the innovation team does what they do. The team needs to have broader ambitions than the core business, to avoid incremental in favor of disruptive change
  4. Expect a challenge of the internal dogma. Doing something new will inevitably cause friction, requiring time and dedication to spreading the word. Patience, diligence in closing communication gap, and pragmatism to understand the resistance to change are key
  5. Stay in tune with the outside world. Internal silos can be fatal for innovation. Engaging with startups, investors, and the corporate community helps to spread your message, builds credibility, and tests your assumptions. It also happens to be the quickest way to get ideas, deals, and opportunities
  6. Scream and shout. Spread the message about the innovation program far and wide, honing your elevator pitch to truly bring home the value. The whole team should feel responsible for building the program's value, which can be helped by celebrating successes
  7. The seventh lesson is more general: even through initial growing pains, remain positive and believe in the value the innovation program can create. Failure, after all, is nothing but an opportunity to learn and improve.

An Open Innovation Ecosystem For Scaling Solutions at Enel

Founded in 1962, Enel – Italy's national entity for electricity – today employs over 66,700 people, operates in 31 countries, and serves over 74 million end-users worldwide with new sustainability-oriented technologies for better energy usage.

As energy transition is an ongoing process, Enel wants to lead the change towards a more sustainable energy system in line with the UN’s SDG 13 – Climate Action. Accordingly, for the 2021-2023 time frame, Enel is committed to investing 17+ billion euros on the decarbonization of power generation; 16+ billion euros to reinforce the resiliency and improve digitalization, efficiency, and quality of networks; 1+ billion euros on new electrification oriented services, such as demand response, storage, and electric mobility.

Enel has put sustainability as the basis of its strategy and, to date, the company manages around 49 gigawatts of renewable capacity, confirming its status as the world’s largest operator in the renewables sector.

Fabio Tentori, Head of Innovation Hubs, Startups and Business Incubation, illustrates how Enel is pursuing sustainability innovation.

Innovability® approach: When Innovation and Sustainability Meet Within an Ecosystem

Through innovation, sustainability is driving Enel’s business. In the words of Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability® Officer at Enel: “Sustainability is our purpose. And innovation is the tool that we can use to get there”.

Enel wants to empower sustainable progress, but innovating the energy sector is incredibly challenging. That’s why Enel’s leaders have created an ecosystem of more than 500,000 people to work with: suppliers, customers, universities, financial communities, industrial partners, innovators, and startups.

As an industry leader with innovation and sustainability at its core, Enel aims to bring together key players and new ideas to change the future of energy.

With that in mind, a few years ago, Enel created Innovability®, a trademarked methodology that crowdsources the best talent, ideas, and technologies. Through Innovability®, Enel provides external startups with expertise, access to its network, and the resources to develop solutions and scale them up into disruptive business models.

Innovability® permeates all of the key functions and business lines of the Group. Innovation managers are constantly seeking new business opportunities, and once Enel’s international network of Hub scouts a promising new idea, the Innovability® team engages directly with the business lines and with the functions of the Group to develop that particular solution faster.

Success is measured by the number of projects carried out with startups, innovators, and other entities outside Enel from each business line.

Eventually, they measure the success in terms of how many of these projects are implemented in the business and in terms of EBITDA for the whole organization.

Supporting Startups to Tackle the Scaling Challenge

With over 350 projects already completed (100 of which are now Enel’s global suppliers), the company has worked with startups from a wide range of industries. However, when it comes to the scaleup phase, common problems usually arise due to a lack of understanding, ineffective communication of value, procurement issues, undefined next steps, lack of business and/or technical expertise, scarce financial resources.

In order to address these issues, Enel supports startups in all the crucial phases of collaboration with the ultimate aim of scaling up their solutions on its business at a global level. For instance, during the development phase, Enel gives startups access to laboratories, data, clients, and experts to increase their solutions’ odds to match customer needs.

Also, Enel makes sure startups have the proper funds to grow if there is a lack of financing. At the same time, the company creates a network of external partners that can support both the startup and Enel in designing and industrializing that particular solution.

Enel’s ultimate goal is to generate industrial value and industrial impact from the collaboration with the startups and not financial impact. The following are some of the latest collaborations with promising startups:

Percepto. Through collaboration with a startup from Israel, Enel has developed Percepto, an end-to-end inspection and monitoring software solution that fully automates visual data workflows, revolutionizing the way vital infrastructure and assets are inspected and monitored.

City Analytics, a platform that makes it possible to plan city infrastructure and services based on real demand by integrating and analyzing information from connected devices. In a nutshell, City Analytics helps cities make data-driven decisions.

Pedius, a project on inclusivity that facilitates communication with deaf people by making the phone service entirely accessible. Thanks to the collaboration with an Italian startup, Enel can now offer deaf clients the possibility to interact with customer service.

Of course, there's still a lot of work to be done. Yet the approach and examples shared by Tino, Cathal and Fabio seem promising.

We'll be diving into the principles and practices on innovation for Climate and SDG's during the next Innov8rs Connect, 12-14 April 2022. If you're keen to understand what's working now and what's coming next, join us for that event.