June 9, 2020

Corporate innovation weekly: hyperloop and microfiltered water

This is what Europe's largest companies are investing in: factory software, trade finance, hyperloop, alternatives to bottled water.

Maija Palmer

4 min read


Seeking deeptech startups

Air Liquide has launched Accelair, a new accelerator programme for deeptech startups, particularly those working on energy and environmental transition, industry 4.0, aerospace, agribusiness and healthcare. Some 20 startups will get a workspace and mentoring from Air Liquide.

Keeping the machines in order

EDF’s Pulse Croissance venture capital arm took part in the €3m fundraising round for TeepTrak, a French startup that makes industrial monitoring software.

National Grid inks two deals

National Grid Partners, the investment arm of energy provider National Grid, had a busy week, and security startups seem to be the theme.


It invested in the $15m Series D round for RiskIQ, a startup that provides app security and risk assessment for companies, and the $14m Series A round for, a startup that helps organisations keep track of their sensitive data. 

Go with the flow

GF Piping Systems, a division of Georg Fischer, a Swiss leader in fluid transfer equipment, was one of the investors in the £8.45m funding round for Oxford Flow, a startup that makes pressure and flow control equipment for the energy and water industries.

Financial services

Big need for trade finance

Barclays, the UK high street bank, and Coface, the French insurer, invested in Stenn, the online trade finance provider. Stenn says there has been an increased need for cross-border trade finance during the coronavirus pandemic. Many companies depleted their cash stocks getting through lockdown and now need additional working capital to restart their operations.

Choosing the right Indian bank

Experian, the consumer credit monitoring company, was one of the investors (alongside Amazon) in the $6m Series D funding round for BankBazaar, the Indian online financial services marketplace.

Food and drink

Microfiltered water

Groupe SEB, the French consortium that owns small appliance brands including Krups, Moulinex and Tefal, invested in the €13.5m funding round for CASTALIE, a company that makes a sustainable alternative to mineral water. The company makes equipment that allows cafes and restaurants to produce microfiltered water from tap water on their premises.


Chronic inflammation

Novo Ventures continued its active investment streak by leading the $55m Series B round into NodThera, a US and UK biotech company developing new treatments for diseases driven by chronic inflammation. Sanofi Ventures is also taking part. Nanna Lüneborg, partner at Novo Ventures, will join the NodThera board.


Secure cloud

It is payday for BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and Merck as they agreed the sale of Exostar, the secure cloud joint venture they created 20 years ago, to private equity firm Thoma Bravo. The Wall Street Journal reports the deal to be worth around $100m. 


Work orchestration platform Cutover added Barclays as an investor to its $17m Series A funding round.

Slack for factory workers?

Robert Bosch Venture Capital and SE Ventures, the investment arm of Schneider Electric, took part in the $4.7m funding round for Poka, a Canadian startup developing a platform to connect factory workers. The web and mobile app is designed specifically for the manufacturing industry, in contrast to the many collaboration apps designed for office workers.



Grupo Red Eléctrica and Altran were among the corporate investors in the €7m funding round for Zeleros Hyperloop, which is developing a hyperloop in Europe.


Hyperloop promises super-fast transport using capsules propelled through vacuum tubes using magnets and could, in theory, cut the travel time from Paris to Berlin (878km) to less than an hour.

Other European hyperloop projects include Hardt Hyperloop, which opened a test facility in the Netherlands last year, and the Toulouse testing facility for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT).

Good reads:

15 things every startup should know before taking CVC money

A very useful list of dos and don’ts from TechCrunch. These were particularly interesting points: :

  1. Don’t let any single corporate venture capital fund (CVC) own more than 19.9% of the company, otherwise you may be facing expensive audit requirements.
  2. In fact, speaking of audits, make sure you get the CVC to waive any requirements for one (they can cost more than $30,000 from a Big Four firm).
  3. Never give a CVC right of first refusal. This would limit chances of ever finding another buyer.

Can the automotive industry adapt to a Covid-19 world?

Coronavirus has so far had a chilling effect on car sales — Europe’s light vehicle market contracted by 44% in March year on year. But there are some indications that a boost in car sales could be coming, as this excellent Oxford Business Group article points out. There has been a big jump in the number of young people considering buying cars as a result of the pandemic.

How resilient is coffee against Covid-19?

Certainly, lockdown led to a huge decrease in the consumption in “out of home” coffee, with estimates o a 80-90% fall. But, according to this Tea & Coffee trade journal article, consumers are buying it more frequently and in greater quantities in supermarkets. Warehouse stock levels haven’t changed much. Just exactly how this shakes out will depend on unemployment levels and how much consumer habits may change. But coffee may be one of those small luxuries, like lipstick, which does surprisingly well in hard times.