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As a large corporate with nearly 70 years in business, Spain’s Ferrovial has turned to startups for help with finding and building new innovations.
Significant parts of the company’s operations are around traffic management and operating toll roads. This is infrastructure that handles mass volumes of people every day, travelling across countries and passing through toll booths.
Ferrovial was looking for a nimble company that could help with devising and testing new technologies to improve these operations.
Through the Disrupt Me programme in Israel, Ferrovial met AgentVi, an Israeli startup building video analytics tools powered by artificial intelligence. Ferrovial is looking to test its video analytics solution that uses a highway's cameras to help operation managers to increase road safety through early detection of events.
Another key element to Ferrovial’s engagements with startups involves preparing the world’s road infrastructure for an autonomous and connected car future where vehicles and infrastructure will interact with each other.
Agile startups that are tinkering and testing new technologies can help a corporate to catch a glimpse of future trends.
Disrupt Me, a programme backed by EIT Hub Israel and the EU, connects European corporates with Israeli startups to pave the way for these types of collaborations.
“We had identified Israel a few years ago as the key geography for us in terms of innovation so we have been always keen to look into the Israeli ecosystem,” Ciro Acedo Boria, head of open innovation ecosystem at Ferrovial, said.
The programme has three main pillars. Firstly, it helps corporates to design, build and implement a strategy around open innovation.
Disrupt Me assists with scouting out the best and most interesting startups for the programme that can align with corporates’ needs, especially in deep tech disciplines such as AI, cybersecurity and robotics. These are all startups that are ready to build proofs-of-concept for large organisations.
Lastly, the programme integrates corporates with the Israeli business and startup culture and landscape for maximum engagement.
After last year’s success, Ferrovial will return to Disrupt Me in 2021. This time it is interested in bringing a startup mindset to the company’s construction business. Ferrovial has been working in the construction of large-scale projects like highways, tunnels, bridges, airports and railways for decades but it’s an industry that has lagged behind on innovation.
“Construction is a very traditional business that is facing a digital transformation right now,” Ciro Acedo said.
Construction and roads infrastructure are just two areas where Disrupt Me has collaborated with corporates.
Elisa, a telecommunications network in Estonia, took part in Disrupt Me, where it met the internet of things startup Essence.
Together the two companies tested a solution for elderly care using smart IoT devices. These devices, hooked up with Elisa’s network, can detect when a person falls in their home and call for help, whether it’s to a family member, neighbour or the emergency services.
Astrid Maldre, startup team leader at Elisa, said that the aim of the project is to improve the lives of the elderly so that they can continue to live at home and independently.
Amit Shamiss, director of business development at Essence SmartCare, said the project gave the startup an opportunity to work with a leading European telecommunication provider on improving senior care.
“Together we will bring a 24/7 service that can better protect older adults and vulnerable people and ensure their safety and independence with peace of mind to their relatives,” Shamiss said.
“From the Disrupt Me programme we got insights into how other companies are doing this innovation process and how we can improve our process,” Maldre added.
“We were looking at our investment overview and there are lots of Israeli startups that were doing trackers and interesting devices. It was the first time we realised we haven't looked in that market, maybe we should do it.”
Elisa approached Disrupt Me with a clear goal to develop a new business unit that can generate a substantial profit in the first year.
This will be the third edition of Disrupt Me. Applications are accepted across three ‘pulses’ between April and December 2021 where Disrupt Me will select corporates to take part, who will then be integrated through workshops and an immersion lab where their needs will be matched up with startups.
To take part, a company must have at least 200 employees and €80 million in revenue with a dedicated project manager to oversee the company’s engagement with startups. Events will take place virtually or in-person, depending on the status of travel restrictions.
“Right off the bat, it was very well structured,” added Elisa startup scout Anna Marin Mottus, on the company’s previous experience in the programme. It took part in the programme virtually, which allowed for easier connections to be made with people regardless of location.
“Be committed to the process as well. You have to still be proactive yourself,” Anna Marin Mottus advised for any company interested in taking part in Disrupt Me.
The Disrupt Me programme is now open for applications. Find out more here.