April 28, 2020

Corporate innovating weekly: retreat from hydrogen cars

Europe's carmakers step back from hydrogen fuel cell tech, second-hand marketplaces boom and we find out the ugly truth about corporate accelerators.

Maija Palmer

4 min read

Food and drink

Chickpea power

InnovoPro, the Israeli chickpea protein startup backed by Swiss supermarket chain Migros, raised a $15m Series B round that will allow it to ramp up production. The company makes an extra-concentrated protein from chickpeas and is aiming for the $40bn-a-year market for meat and dairy replacements.


Five-minute tumour test

Swiss medtech company Lunaphore raised an extra €1.9m extension to its Series C round from the Swiss Entrepreneurs Fund. The company, whose backers include Zurcher Kantonalbank, analyses tumours using microfluidic technology, cutting down testing time from two to eight hours to less than five minutes.


Sparky shopping

Einride, the Swedish self-driving truck company, announced an expansion of its partnership with German grocery store chain Lidl. The deal will see Einride help Lidl move to a fully electric fleet by 2025, with a plan to transition to autonomous vehicles in a future phase.



Ad intelligence marketing intelligence startup Adverity raised a $30m Series C funding round. Adverity works with clients such as Unilever, Red Bull and Ikea, helping them get more out of their marketing data.


Fast charging

BP Ventures led the $25m Series B funding round into FreeWire Technologies, a US-based startup that makes rapid charging technology for electric cars. The FreeWire charger not only allows cars to charge fast, but it smooths out the demand on the electricity grid by storing power in a local battery. ABB Technology Ventures also invested in the round.

Hydrogen = not for passenger cars (except in Japan)

Daimler subsidiary Mercedes-Benz is giving up on hydrogen fuel-cell cars. The company is stopping production of its only model, the GLC F-Cell, and will roll its hydrogen cell unit into a Daimler Truck-Volvo joint venture that plans to develop hydrogen-powered trucks by the middle of the decade. 

For passenger vehicles, hydrogen, which has an efficiency of just 35% at best, doesn’t stack up against battery-powered vehicles with their efficiency of 70-90%. BMW is now the only major German carmaker still pursuing fuel cells.

Hydrogen may make sense for other modes of transport, however, like trucks, trains and planes. Hyundai has recently started rolling out a fleet of hydrogen trucks in Europe.

Japan seems to be taking a different view, though. Air Liquide has just opened a hydrogen refuelling station in the Aichi Prefecture, where the Japanese government is creating a “hydrogen society” with a network of filling stations and more than 1,100 hydrogen vehicles already on the road.


Second-hand phones

Certideal, a French marketplace for buying and selling second hand mobile phones and tablets, raised an €8m fund. The four-year-old startup is backed by MAIF Avenir, the French insurer, and BNP Paribas, the French bank.

Second-hand luxury

Conde Nast-backed Vestiaire Collective, the French platform for buying and selling second-hand luxury clothes and handbags, raised €59m in a funding round. Orders on the platform have rebounded after an initial drop, and have now surpassed pre-coronavirus numbers. It may be a clue to what post-pandemic retail will look like: more interest in the circular economy and reusing good quality, durable items.

How will we shop in the next decade?

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, the shopping centre group, is launching a fashion innovation challenge with a first prize of £15,000. The prize, which is also supported by IBM and Depop, is looking for fashion, retail and fintech startups with ideas for how to change shopping.

Good reads:

Corporate accelerators really do perform worse than normal ones

Corporate accelerators have a bad reputation, but is it deserved? Alex Mahr at Stryber (a Future Proof reader and contributor) crunched the numbers and found that, depressingly, this is true. Taking a random selection of European companies founded in 2013, Stryber found that, on average, 11% succeeded and 89% failed. Those that had not been part of an accelerator programme had a 10% success rate. Being part of an accelerator lifted that rate to 12%. Unless it was a corporate accelerator, in which case the success rate came down to 8%. Something really is going wrong with corporate accelerators.


A glimpse into the future — post-Covid life in Wuhan

Lockdown has lifted and citizens of Wuhan are trying to figure out what economic and social life looks like now. This Bloomberg Business story lays out what Western countries too might expect: frequent temperature checks, mobile phone tracking, meeting rooms where everyone sits far apart, canteens where everyone eats alone. No one takes the lift or subway anymore, and stairs and solo car journeys are in — so at least car dealerships are bouncing back.

We don’t need hackathons to fight Covid-19, we need “matchathons”

There have been a lot of coronavirus-related hackathons in the past two months (the GlobalHack, WirVsVirus, Hack the Crisis) but is this really producing practical results? Bjorn-Soren Gigler, senior digital innovation officer at the European Commission, argues that what we really need are “matchathons” that would connect hackathon teams with investors and policymakers.