Energy & Mining

Shell’s Startup Accelerator Program

Shell's successful startup accelerator program launches in the UAE in a bid to help the country advance its innovation goals for transitioning to a green economy.

Entrepreneurship plays a key role in the UAE’s strategy of diversification and transition to a green economy. Each of the emirates has its own vision of where it wants to steer its economy, but all converge on the need to move towards promoting more sustainable sectors that will decarbonize the country, while helping it reduce its dependence on its rich natural gas reserves. For this reason, the multinational energy company Shell launched its startup acceleration program in the UAE: Shell StartUp Engine.

The Shell StartUp Engine is an innovation program for startups, also available in Singapore and Brazil, that propose solutions to overcome a series of challenges facing the energy sector. Specifically, in the case of the UAE, the participating companies, which can be either early or mid-stage, get to focus specifically on three types of challenges: path to zero, green movement and life essentials. In each of these areas of action, they receive support from experts, mentors, and meetings with executives to boost the startup’s capabilities in order to turn it into a viable partner. Among other objectives, this initiative seeks to develop a network of connections to help entrepreneurs find investors and business opportunities so that their project can be carried out.

The zero-road chapter seeks value propositions that help decarbonize operations or increase the presence of renewable energy in the country, while the green movement focus area concentrates on value propositions that enable greener logistics and transportation systems. The third, life essentials, targets entrepreneurs with sustainability-based solutions for providing food and water to people. “Shell StartUp Engine UAE was born out of Shell commitment to play a role in the global energy transition that extends beyond providing its own direct solutions to the world’s growing energy needs,” said Ali Al Janabi, vice president & chairman at Shell UAE.

Duralite Power, Ocean Purpose Project, QE-Labs, Anzene, NewGen Gas or Teale are some of the startups that Shell StartUp Engine has helped in other parts of the world. For example, Teale provides software to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and factories, while Duralite Power produces hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity using clean energy. In the UAE, interested parties had until June 15, 2022, to apply for this three-month acceleration program, which was scheduled to start in September 2022. The initiative concludes with a Demo Day where startups present their ideas and business models to potential investors, an event scheduled for January 2023.

“Shell StartUp Engine UAE is an accelerator program born out of Shell’s commitment to the UAE and to energy transition,” Al Janabi said. The accelerator program methodology, which has already been tested in Singapore and Brazil, could be a turning point for energy startups in the UAE, as they now have the possibility of receiving backing from Shell, one of the world’s largest oil companies that aims to go net neutral on emissions generated by its operations by 2050 or sooner.

In Singapore alone, around 30 companies have participated in the program, which has helped the country take a step forward in generating a business network capable of leading the transition to a more sustainable business. “Shell believes in the innovative and economic powers of entrepreneurs to drive us toward a more sustainable future,” said Al Janabi during the presentation of this program at the AU, which will serve to repeat the success achieved in other latitudes.

The launch of Shell StartUp Engine in the emirates took place in early March 2021 in the middle of the Dubai Expo 2020, an event that was originally scheduled to be held between October 2020 and April 2021 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, the World Expo to be hosted by Dubai will be held between October 2021 and March 2022, a perfect framework for the oil company to announce this acceleration program, which is also in line with the UAE’s National Entrepreneurship Agenda. The event, which took place at the UK Pavilion of Expo 2020, featured a panel discussion moderated by The Business Year in which senior executives from the UAE Ministry of Industry also participated.

Initiatives like this one by Shell are paramount so that not only UAE, but the rest of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) continue to move forward in generating an entrepreneurial ecosystem that energizes its economic transformation and allows local talent not to seek opportunities abroad but to take advantage of its full potential within the continent. In that regard, data platform Magnitt estimates that ventures in MENA, Pakistan and Turkey have raised more than USD5 billion in funding between January and June this year, a significant increase when compared to the record USD2.6 billion raised during all of 2021, indicating that the startup ecosystem in the region is becoming increasingly mature.