For Enel, innovation and digitalization are key pillars of its strategy to grow in a rapidly changing context while ensuring high safety standards, business continuity and operational efficiency, and thus enabling new uses of energy and new ways of managing it, making it accessible to an ever larger number of people.
Enel operates through an Open Innovability model, a consensus-based ecosystem that makes it possible to connect all areas of the Company with startups, industrial partners, small and medium-sized enterprises, research centers and universities through a variety of system, such as crowdsourcing platforms and the Innovation Hub network. Enel has numerous innovation partnership agreements that, in addition to Enel’s traditional lines of business such as renewables and conventional generation, have promoted the development of new solutions for e-mobility, microgrids, energy efficiency and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). During 2019, Enel opened 1 new hub in Boston, expanding our presence in the leading innovation ecosystems in the world, with 7 Innovation Hubs (Silicon Valley, Boston, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Moscow, Santiago de Chile and Rio de Janiero) and 3 Innovation Hub & Labs (Catania, Pisa and Milan). Thanks to our presence in innovation ecosystems and the organization of bootcamps, scouting initiatives dedicated to specific technologies of interest to the Group, in 2019 Enel forged contacts with some 2,500 start-ups. The online crowdsourcing platform Openinnovability.com is a digital forum where project ideas are the protagonists of the challenges launched on the site through calls for applications. Activities to promote and develop the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the Company also continued through the Innovation Academies and the Innovation Ambassadors project.
Furthermore, in 2019 the activities of the innovation communities continued, involving different areas and skills within the Company. Energy storage, blockchain, drones, augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, wearables, robotics and green hydrogen are the areas and technologies addressed within these communities. In recent years, Enel has intensified the use of drones in the monitoring and maintenance of its assets, inspecting solar fields, wind farms, dams and hydroelectric reservoirs, closed components in traditional plants and distribution lines with the aim of increasing the efficiency of operational and maintenance processes and above all reduce workers’ exposure to risks. Furthermore, storage systems, in addition to guaranteeing ongoing support for current business activities, pave the way to new frontiers of sustainable business. Finally, in 2019 a community was born with the aim of applying green hydrogen produced by electrolysis powered by renewable electricity. We consider it the only way to sustainably produce hydrogen in the long run, as it is characterized by zero greenhouse gas emissions and powered from renewable sources. As of 2019, over €84 million have been invested in technological innovation.
Our constant focus on the customer and our commitment to delivering high-quality products and services are important factors that distinguish Enel in the relationship with its customers in the various countries in which the Group operates. Reliable, secure and uninterrupted distribution, together with quality, efficiency and transparency in electricity sales are the hallmark of every phase of our relationship with customers. Enel’s leadership position has been gained thanks to the attention we place on the customer in providing quality services: aspects that concern more than just the provision of electricity and/or natural gas, extending, above all, to intangible aspects of our service that relate to the perception and satisfaction of our customers. Through our products for both the residential and business markets, the Company confirmed its focus of the last few years, with dedicated offers with a lower environmental impact and a concentration on the most vulnerable segments of the population. In fact, all the countries in which the Group operates provide forms of support (often linked to government initiatives) which assist these segments of the population in paying their electricity and gas bills, so as to give everyone equal access to electricity.
Enel has also established numerous processes to ensure customers receive a high level of service. In Italy, the commercial quality of all our contact channels (customer service calls, Enel Points and stores, utility bills, app, e-mail, social media, account manager, fax) is ensured through systematic monitoring of the sales and management processes in order to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations and respect for the privacy, freedom and dignity of our customers. Enel also confirms its interest in digitalization, electronic invoicing and new services. With Enel X, we offer innovative solutions to residential customers (technological solutions for smart homes, home automation, solar and photovoltaic systems, boilers, maintenance services, lighting, etc.), government customers (public lighting, monitoring services for smart cities, surveillance systems, etc.) and large customers (demand response services, consulting and energy efficiency solutions). We also promote electric mobility through the development of public and private charging infrastructures.
Enel bases its procurement processes on pre-contractual and contractual conduct centered around mutual good faith, transparency and collaboration. In addition to meeting certain quality standards, the services of our vendors must also go hand in hand with the adoption of best practices in terms of human rights and working conditions, health and safety and environmental and ethical responsibility. Our procurement procedures are designed to guarantee service quality in full respect of the principles of economy, effectiveness, timeliness, fairness and transparency. The procurement process plays a central role in value creation in its various forms (safety, savings, timeliness, quality, earnings, revenue, flexibility) as a result of ever-greater interaction and integration with the outside world and the different parts of the company organization. In 2019, we signed agreements with a total of more than 30,000 vendors.
Vendor management involves three essential stages, which integrate social, environmental and governance issues, the qualification system; the definition of general terms and conditions of contract and the Supplier Performance Management (SPM) system in the evaluation process. Enel’s global vendor-qualification system (with about 8,200 active qualifications as at December 31, 2019) enables us to accurately assess businesses that intend to participate in tender processes and serves as a guarantee for the Company, while the SPM system seeks to monitor vendor services in terms of the quality, timeliness and sustainability of contract execution. Furthermore, we continued working on those activities that enable the ever-greater integration of environmental, social and governance issues in the supply chain strategy, creating shared value with vendors in a vision of a circular economy.