July 7, 2020

Corporate innovation weekly: AI vs pests, bye bye batteries, staff scooters

This is what Europe's largests corporations have been investing in recently: scooters for staff, AI to fight pests and the 10 types of innovation to know.

Maija Palmer

5 min read

Photo by form PxHere


AI vs pests

Rabobank’s Food and Agri Innovation Fund was one of the backers of the $45m fundraise into Enko Chem, a US startup that is using AI to discover safe alternatives to pesticides. With pesticides like Roundup now banned as possibly carcinogenic and pests developing resistance to existing treatments, new ideas for crop protection are needed. 


Seeing the light

KPN Ventures was one of the investors in the €35m series C funding round for Smart Photonics, which makes the kind of photonic components which are important for building a new generation of sensors and a building block for creating the internet of things.


Battery-free power

Airbus Ventures was one of the investors in the €8m funding round for E-Peas, the Belgian startup creating technology that would allow devices to run without batteries, harvesting energy from ambient light, heat and vibrations.


Carbon capture

Equinor Ventures took part in the $22m series B funding round for Carbon Clean Solutions, a UK-based startup developing affordable carbon capture and storage options. 

Financial services


A nice payday for Allianz as AI-based insurance company Lemonade listed on the stock market with a boom. The share price more than doubled on the first morning of trading, valuing the company at more than $3bn. Pretty good for a company that was founded just 5 years ago and doesn’t make a profit yet.

Menu of fintech options

Germany’s Solarisbank is not the most recognised name in fintech, but it is one that a lot of incumbent banks love. It has just raised a series C funding round of $67.5m from investors including HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, Samsung Catalyst Fund, BBVA, SBI Group and ABN AMRO Ventures.

Solarisbank is a fintech infrastructure company that offers a menu of different types of financial services products — payment cards, credit, cross-border transactions — that others can tack onto their own business, whether they are building their own challenger bank, or developing a cryptocurrency wallet business. They say that the people who make the most money in a gold rush are the ones selling shovels —and Solarisbank is selling the fintech shovels.

Crypto security

CommerzVentures was one of the investors in the $23m series A funding round for Curv, a blockchain security app. The startup helps keep cryptocurrency assets safe for companies like Franklin Templeton and eToro (and in addition to its own technology has an insurance policy with Munich Re for $50m in theft).

Digital ambulance chasers

Schibsted Growth, the investment arm of the Schibsted Media Group, co-led the €7.1m investment into Insurello, a Swedish startup that helps people get fair compensation after personal accidents. The 2016-founded startup takes over the handling of the complicated claims process and identifies compensation that people might not have known they were entitled to.


Cloud gaming

Telecom Innovation Pool, Deutsche Telecom’s strategic investment fund, invested €2m seed funding in RemoteMyApp, a Polish cloud gaming company. RemoteMyApp runs its own cloud gaming platform, ​​, and is now helping other companies, like DT, build their own platforms.

DT also took part in the $18m series B round raised by Israeli cybersecurity company Cynet.



Novo Holdings-backed Bolt Biotherapeutics raised a $93.5m series C funding round to continue developing its therapies that harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer.


Scooters for staff

Belgian bank Belfius and Lab Box, the startup studio of automobile distributor D’Ieteren, led the  €7m series A funding round for Skpr, a Belgian startup offering micromobility solutions for company employees. While many of the scooter and bike sharing companies have focused on the consumer market, Skpr expects there will be huge demand from companies who are looking for ways to get staff into work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Big on batteries

Mercedes-Benz is taking a stake of around 3% in Chinese battery cell company Farasis. The company, which is a supplier to Mercedes-Benz, is building a new factory in Germany which will employ 2,000 people. The move is part of Mercedes-Benz's ambition to be carbon neutral by 2037.


Car hire

Santander has launched Wabi, a car subscription service that allows users to rent a car by the month online or by mobile. The service, which is being rolled out to a number of Spanish cities, will compete with services like Car2Go, Repsol and Zity.


Planes, ferries and automobiles

It is a great way to hedge your bets. With airline travel expected to be down for some time to come (Goldman Sachs predicted it would take until 2023 to recover to 2019 levels) EasyJet owner EasyGroup invested in the €2.6m seed funding round for Greek startup Ferryhopper, which helps people book ferry tickets digitally. The company already covers 10 countries (including the Greek islands) but wants to expand to the rest of Europe.

Who's hiring?

Innovation manager, InsurTech, London, UK
Senior innovation architect,  Talend, Suresnes, France
Innovation lead, Telefónica, Slough, UK
Director of consulting, Global hybrid agency, London, UK
Growth strategy director, Berlin, Germany
Innovation manager, FMCG company in the petcare space, London, UK
Head of innovation, Molson Coors Beverage Company, Burton-upon-Trent, UK
Innovation analyst, Illimity, Milan, Italy
Digital transformation senior consultant, Hypertech, Athens, Greece

Good reads

Know your innovation types

 ? These are the 10 types of innovation you need to understand, according to Doblin, the innovation firm now owned by Deloitte,  if you want to consistently innovate. Innovations to do with products are the most visible and often receive disproportionate attention. The innovations that happen behind the scenes are equally important.

10 types of innovation graphic from Doblin

Case study bonanza

This corporate innovation report from Bruntwood is a little bit obvious (innovation is hard, companies tend not to do it well). But it does have some interesting real-world case studies from Mercedes-Benz, Rolls Royce, the UK Cabinet Office, L&G Capital, and Axel Springer, that make it worth reading.

Repetition repetition repetition

One innovation success is not enough for a corporate intrapreneur, writes Tendayi Viki in Forbes. Yes, it is great to get a quick win and be celebrated as a hero. But don’t get distracted by one success — for lasting cultural change you need to be able to repeat this again and again. Stay focused.