ReLi: Winners of Battle of Green Talent
By: Emilia Chojkiewicz, 2nd Year MSc Smart Electrical Networks and Systems
What began as an idea between classmates grew into a start-up that led six Master’s students to win the EIT InnoEnergy Battle of Green Talent. Read on to hear their inspirational journey.
The idea born out of ESADE Business School
As part of the EIT InnoEnergy Master’s in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems, students participate in a month-long ESADE Business School in Barcelona - an experience you can read more about in my previous blog here. During the summer school, we applied the concepts we were learning in our courses to a New Venture Creation Project (NVCP). My group of three was brought together by our shared disdain for waste and passion for sustainability.
Ultimately, we came up with an idea to refurbish retired electric vehicle (EV) batteries for a stationary energy storage application. Our solution would ‘kill two birds with one stone’, so to speak: on the one hand, it would satisfy a growing need for sustainable and affordable residential storage, and on the other hand, it would offer a second life to a growing quantity of discarded EV batteries.
Although this was intended to be only a class project, we were increasingly realising both the unique market opportunity as well as how critical green batteries would be to the energy transition. At the encouragement of our professors, after leaving Barcelona, we continued to research this niche area. We spoke with our professors, mentors, investors, competitors, stakeholders, and more. We put out customer surveys to learn about the needs of homeowners with solar photovoltaic panels. Each conversation brought new information and valuable insights, which helped us further improve our idea.
Leveraging the connections we developed during the first year of the Master’s in Stockholm, we brought on another sustainable energy engineer to join the team. Together, we dubbed ourselves ‘ReLi’. The name simultaneously encapsulates the repurposing of lithium ion batteries while also emphasising reliability, a key feature of our solution.
Entering the arena
Soon after learning about the Battle of Green Talent, we decided to sign up. Organised by EIT InnoEnergy, it offered a chance to work on a start-up through a virtual game environment. Plus, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to refine our ideas and build our network.
In fact, through the platform, we connected with two students in the EIT InnoEnergy Master’s in Energy Storage, who had been working on a similar concept. We joined forces, pooling their knowledge with our business model.
We also connected with mentors at major European utility companies, including ENGIE. All the while we were interacting with investors on the platform, addressing their questions. Looking back, the active communication not only provided us with investors’ perspectives but also proved to them that we were serious about getting down to business. Ultimately, ReLi received the highest investment amongst all the other teams.
The home stretch
As 2020 turned into 2021, the idea started to materialise. We obtained a retired EV battery and one of our group members began to develop a prototype. We outsourced some research to interns and classmates. We nailed out the little details and made plans to launch a pilot project in the Brainport region of the Netherlands.
After we were named a finalist in the competition, the home stretch was filled with modifications to the one-pager and creating a pitch video. Through it all, we remained spread out all across Europe - this meant that regular communication and updates were critical. It also showed me how vital a strong team is to a start-up’s success. We were all flexible and versatile, able to fill in gaps where needed and remain positive throughout.
The big win
When ReLi was announced as the winner of the Battle of Green Talent, none of us could believe it. But we were so excited at the support for, and prospects of, our ReLi. There were so many other good ideas that all the teams deserve a big congratulations and thanks for pushing us to work harder.
Now, with 10,000 Euros in our pockets and the EIT InnoEnergy Student Start-up Incubator programme by our side, we can actually begin to bring our idea to market!
*This article has been published before as InnoBlog and has been modified with knowledge of the author