Sustainability and Innovation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Idea Market

The launch of the iTeam in 2010 was complemented by the implementation of an internal Idea Market. EDP Brazil leadership recognized that they were part of a traditional sector mired in conventional ways of thinking and doing business.  They wanted something that would help them set new rules, break down walls between departments, and use the collective wisdom of their employees.

Idea Market offered an easily accessible tool to encourage innovative thinking and cross-company cooperation. The game-like interface of the Idea Market quickly drew in a wide range of EDP Brazil employees. In fact, the Idea Market draws 50% of its participants from field staff, including technicians with limited computer access.  With the Idea Market, EDP Brazil has found a way to tap directly into the minds of its people.

Employees from all business units submit ideas to the market – these ideas are then open to comments from other employees, who express their support for particular ideas by making virtual investments.  Investor confidence drives results – the ideas that receive the most virtual investments are the ideas that rise to the top.  And these are the ideas that are assessed by the iTeam  to determine which to implement.

EDP Bolsa Logo1EDP Brazil’s Idea Market (“Bolsa de Inovação”) has generated thousands of ideas; over 750 ideas have been examined by the iTeam. About 100 of those ideas have been deemed worthy of implementation. Setas explains, “The Idea Market helps us to continuously improve our day to day activities, in a bottom-up approach. The ideas come from, and are selected by, our employees.”

An EDP business area that has received many innovative ideas from the Idea Market has been the InnovCity initiative.  InnovCity is a response to the reality that while cities occupy only 2% of the earth’s surface, they are responsible for 75% of worldwide energy consumption. InnovCity aims to use technology such as smart grids and smart metering to reduce CO2 emissions.  InnovCity initiatives have included replacing traditional bulbs with LEDs in public lighting, thereby reducing energy consumption by more than 40%.

The Idea Market is perfectly aligned with EDP Brazil’s ‘Lean’ and ‘Econnosco’ programs, designed to optimize efficiency and promote a culture of sustainability. These programs have delivered cost savings of over CDN$2.3 million, and myriad process improvements. Positive outcomes have included the reuse of over 6 tons of spare parts, recycling 161 thousand litres of oil (used in transformers), and a 43% reduction in customer complaints.

Innovation Mentors

The Innovation Mentors (iMentors) program was designed by EDP Brazil to foster innovation and complement the iTeam and Idea Market initiatives. iMentors are a group of 20-30 employees, from different backgrounds and hierarchical levels, who want to have a more active role in the organization and be a part of changing not only EDP Brazil but also the energy business.

When the iMentors program was implemented in 2012, mentors were selected from volunteer applicants and employees nominated by managers – many applicants were active Idea Market participants. To be selected as an iMentor, each employee underwent an internal selection process and interviews with external consultants.   Mentors receive training in:

  • innovation principles
  • business and management model concepts
  • innovation methodologies and tools
  • techniques to identify trends in business, society and technology
  • methods to engage stakeholders (including other employees and consumers)

The work of these mentors further builds an internal culture of innovation. The members of this elite squad of innovation ambassadors assist with tasks such as suggesting innovation challenges for the Idea Market and guiding unit leaders to effectively present their ideas to the iTeam. iMentors are vital to EDP’s ongoing goals of reducing bureaucracy, fostering individual and community initiatives, and reducing internal and external barriers to collaboration and innovation.