Corporate Innovation InsightsIntrapreneurshipCorporate Venture Building

Corporate Entrepreneurship Stories #1: ANDRITZ – Part 1

By March 27, 2024April 17th, 2024No Comments

From established industry to Green Hydrogen Innovation – ANDRITZ’s remarkable Venture journey

Part 1 – The birth and development of the idea during the Andritz Venture Startup Contest 

A conversation between Peter Eisenköck, Vice President of Global Sales and Service for Green Hydrogen at ANDRITZ, and Michael Obrist, Innovation Manager at Pioneers

Peter Eisenköck has played an essential role in establishing ANDRITZ as a key European player in industrial-scale green hydrogen production. His journey began with the 2021 ANDRITZ Ventures Startup Contest – a global intrapreneurship program that we have backed for several years as strategic partners and coaches. Peter and his team submitted a green hydrogen idea concept to the contest, recognizing its market potential. After rapid customer and market validation, ANDRITZ formed a technological partnership and launched its own hydrogen department in early 2022.

In the discussion with Peter, we dive deeper into his personal entrepreneurial journey, the team’s accomplishments and success factors along the way from validating to scaling a venture within such a short time frame. 

In this first part, we’ll explore Peter’s key role in ANDRITZ’s journey into green hydrogen, covering how the idea came to life and how the team succeeded in the Venture Startup Contest.

Michael Obrist, Pioneers:                                                                                                                              Peter, we first met in 2021 at the Idea Bootcamp of the ANDRITZ Ventures Startup Contest. Already back then, you were convinced of the idea’s potential. Can you share more about this initial phase?

Peter Eisenköck:
My journey began even before the Venture Contest as part of my role as Director of Innovation and Business Development in the Metals processing Division of ANDRITZ. I got increasingly interested in the whole topic of green hydrogen and after some research, I became convinced that it’s an important strategic area for ANDRITZ to move into. I applied for the contest to gain more support and resources for development.

Once accepted, I collaborated with my former manager, Willi Karner, who I persuaded to come out of retirement to support me with my idea [laughing]. We spent the initial months building our expertise on the topic and assessing its value for our clients. We quickly found proof on the customer, market and technology aspects, that this could indeed become a high-potential opportunity.

Peter Eisenköck, VP of Global Sales and Service for Green Hydrogen at ANDRITZ and corporate entrepreneur

Our aim was to play a central role in the global green energy transition. With our vast experience within ANDRITZ in the metals industry, I recognized hydrogen's potential to reduce CO2 emissions substantially.

At the time when you started the project, many players were already investigating the potential of green hydrogen production and tried to make a business out of it. Where did you see the competitive edge of ANDRITZ going into this market over many innovative players/startups already being positioned in the field? 

The hydrogen market is still in strong development and there is not one standardized solution on the market. At the same time, investments needed to enter the market at industrial scale are substantial. So, while startups might have a maturely developed technology, they lack the necessary trust and credibility needed to offer a large scale, integrated industrial solution. This is where we came into play. ANDRITZ is skilled and known for managing large-scale plant projects, from engineering design to construction planning to efficient operations and maintenance execution.

Picture_Download_Andritz_Story
Download Learnings

Thanks to ANDRITZ's core assets and market trust, we had a strong edge with our venture over hydrogen startups.

Yes, you could definitely leverage ANDRITZ’s experience in large-scale manufacturing. However, you had to validate some key aspects in the beginning to showcase internally that this was indeed a worthwhile venture idea. How did you do that?

Yes, absolutely. Moving into large-scale industrial solutions has always a huge potential upside, but it is also associated with substantial investment risks. So our early validation work was crucial. We did this through customer interviews, market data, and a first technological feasibility assessment. Secondly, we onboarded our own Metals department management and received valuable feedback.

With their support, we presented our concept to the global technology board of the ANDRITZ Ventures Startup Contest. This presentation included a detailed analysis of the market, customer requirements, a technology development roadmap, a first business case and required investments for the next six-month phase. 

What exactly was the funding used for in the initial idea-development phase?
Well, primarily, it allowed us to dedicate more time to essential tasks. During the first phase of the contest, we worked on the project while also managing our regular job role and duties. The funding enabled us to devote more time to the project. It also allowed us to expand the team for increased productivity and quicker market entry and in addition, we also used some of the budget for market studies and improved the understanding of our positioning in the hydrogen value chain.

Let’s talk a bit about the technology, the core of your venture offering. There are different ways to produce green hydrogen at scale. Could you run us through the underlying technology you offer today?
Sure! The overarching technology is called electrolysis, where electricity from renewable sources splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. We use Alkaline Electrolysis (AEL), where an alkaline solution is used to produce hydrogen and oxygen at separate electrodes. This makes it ideal for large-scale production, but we also move into other technologies such as  PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane).

Our expertise today covers the entire spectrum, from consulting and engineering to plant construction and lifecycle management. Furthermore, we incorporate digital technologies for performance optimization, including advanced sensors and data analytics. 

The startup contest was a huge leverage... It provided a platform for internal exposure and funding, but it also gave us a methodological structure.

Innovation formats like intrapreneurship have recently been observed critically in the innovation scene, as they did not always deliver the expected results. What’s your take on that? Did the ANDRITZ Startup Contest help you in bringing your idea to market?

I think that really depends on how such a format is designed and executed and it’s different for each company. I think that the ANDRITZ Ventures Startup Contest was definitely a huge leverage for us. We were part of a cohort of more than 10 teams that worked on new product and business ideas. It provided a global platform for internal exposure and funding, but you also gave us a methodological structure.

The regular check-ins we had with Pioneers and the ANDRITZ ventures mentors were helpful in finding the right focus on key aspects we needed to test and develop next. Balancing a new venture while maintaining your core role isn’t always simple. However, a format like a startup contest can effectively align resources and expectations across the company and create momentum.

Thank you for the insights Peter! 

This was part 1 of our discussion with Peter Eisenköck. In part 2, we will find out more about the teams’ remarkable growth path, the technological partnership and a lighthouse project with Salzgitter AG that will become one of Europe’s largest green hydrogen production facilities. Read part 2 here.

Do you want to learn more about how we can support your corporate venture building activities?

Schedule a brief introductory call with our Innovation Manager Michael Obrist. Simply send a quick email to michael.obrist@pioneers.io.

Foto von Micha Obrist rund

Michael Obrist
Innovation Manager

Michael Obrist

Michael Obrist

Innovation Manager