Shell GameChanger has funded numerous game-changing ideas over the last few years, through ‘proof of concept’ to rapid worldwide deployment.
Established over 20 years ago as an opportunity to “bring Silicon Valley inside,” GameChanger is one of four innovation vehicles at Shell. The program, now global, focuses on the proof-of-concept phase by providing businesses with a quick and cost-efficient way to show the technical and commercial viability of their idea or business plan.
In an exclusive interview with GameChanger James Unterreiner, we learn more about how Shell GameChanger is actively seeking, supporting and investing in novel ideas that have the potential to disrupt the future of energy, why NEXUS-NY makes a great innovation partner, and how clean energy entrepreneurs can get on James’ radar.
“I help startup companies de-risk and commercialize technology that will drastically impact the future of energy, said James. “We aim to cross the innovation “Valley of Death” by engaging industry experts for guidance, identifying and engaging partners early, then looking at implementation and deployment of technologies globally, both within existing and new businesses.”
How can Shell GameChanger help clean energy inventors?
Shell GameChanger has a team of seven passionate individuals split between Houston, USA and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. These representatives focus on the most relevant technologies, and how they can drastically impact our future.
“We provide pre-seed and seed funding, working with early-stage tech companies to de-risk their technology or business plan,” explained James.
Each project is divided into phases, where founders receive assistance and funding. Assistance includes connecting participants to industry experts, mentors, and potential partners. Funding for the first phase is typically around $200,000, and can extend up to $1 million through a company’s lifecycle in the Shell GameChanger program.
Some of the disruptive ideas brought to life through GameChanger include Kite Power Systems, Brent Sonar Sphere and Swellflex.
Why did Shell create the GameChanger program?
Established 20 years ago in an effort to “bring Silicon Valley inside,” James said the original process was focused internally.
“Shell developed the GameChanger program to give people an opportunity, and provide them assistance to develop their ideas. There are a bunch of smart people that have ideas, but maybe those ideas are too radical to promote through their traditional job roles.”
GameChanger evolved when the program started recognizing other solid ecosystems outside of Shell. The scope was broadened to “go where the relevant technology is,” and now aims to identify ideas around the world to be commercialized.
“We’re always looking at the tech through the lens of where Shell can provide assistance, which includes more than funding. We also pair each business with an industry expert to best achieve commercialization success, said James. “Of course with a small team, it’s important to plug in where we will see good results. Right now, there are a lot of clean energy ideas coming out of New York.”
What innovation areas does Shell GameChanger target?
Shell GameChanger focuses on two main areas: Oil & Gas and New Energy. James leads the New Energy focus, which includes Solar Fuel Innovations, Grids of the Future and Digitization Machine Learning and New Routes to Oxygenated Intermediates.
“I want to see how companies are using renewable resources to generate hydrogen, or creating new tech in electrical vehicles and grid generation to transform the space,” said James. “And with an abundance of data that needs to be processed, extracted and understood, I’m always keeping an eye out for how machine learning can be applied to traditional oil and gas, or new energy technologies.”
How did you learn about NEXUS-NY and what made you want to partner?
The Shell GameChanger program is actively exploring ideas to commercialize from within the NEXUS-NY portfolio of companies. After being introduced to NEXUS-NY through an article that came across his desk, James reached out to Executive Director Doug Buerkle to discuss Shell’s areas of interest.
“Doug assisted by presenting the portfolio companies that may be relevant to GameChanger,” said James.
So far, three NEXUS-NY companies have applied for the GameChanger program. Each of these companies are in the very early stages of the screening process, but James said all are relevant to Shell. The general time for the application process takes a minimum of three months.
The goal of the Shell GameChanger program is for companies to succeed. James said this process takes multiple players, and that’s one of the reasons why GameChanger takes an open innovation approach and seeks to work with clean energy incubators and accelerators like NEXUS-NY.
“While Shell can provide funding and subject matter experts (knowledge about the industry and how the tech may be relevant), NEXUS-NY specializes in providing business advice and legal counsel. These resources are a great complement to our services,” added James.
What is the criteria for companies to get involved?
Shell GameChanger is open to companies that are focused on energy. Criteria to participate includes the value of the opportunity, novelty of the idea, if Shell provides the necessary resources will the company progress forward and strategically, why Shell?
“First off, we’re looking for the next billion dollar companies and for this to happen we need to focus on revolutionary ideas. That said, it’s important to us that we can bring the right resources to the partnership to assist the company,” said James. “And from a strategic standpoint, we need to consider how the technology can pair with a Shell opportunity.”
How can inventors and entrepreneurs take advantage of this opportunity?
“GameChanger is always looking for technologies that could transform the energy industry. If you want to get on our radar, explore our areas of focus and submit a proposal,” encouraged James.
Proposals are open for innovations in New Energies, Oil & Gas and other ideas. View call for proposals here.