Today five major Spanish companies in separate sectors announced the formation of an innovation initiative. The five companies Aigües de Barcelona, CaixaBank, Naturgy, SEAT and Telefónica are creating Start4big. The technologies targeted include blockchain, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, big data and others.
The advantage for startups is the ability to test prototypes and pilots across these major organizations that together account for 200,000 employees and 380 million customers. The startups themselves are expected to be “mature”. The initiative is part of the European Commission Horizon 2020 project that aims to encourage collaboration between startups and corporations. The startups don’t have to be based in Europe.
Every six months the group will announce four challenges which startups can respond to. Three of the challenges will be multi-sectoral, and one “cross-cutting”.
The initial four challenges are:
- Helping users control and manage home consumption (cross-cutting challenge).
- Improving the customer experience and/or reducing the costs of the services and products involved in online transactions (multi-sectorial challenge). This one is likely to use blockchain.
- Providing new services using communications between different devices, vehicles and/or infrastructures (multi-sectorial challenge).
- Tracking the activities of customers in real time to customize their experience (multi-sectorial challenge).
Applicants can apply until 22 February 2019 and the selected companies will be announced on 11 June.
Telefónica recently announced it’s working on a blockchain project with IBM for billing international roaming. It’s already collaborating with SEAT to explore 5G, blockchain and data for the card industry. Caixabank is involved in the we.trade blockchain trade finance consortium. Additionally the bank is involved in blockchain tests for Spanish warrants and a shared customer identity project for banks.