Terna Forward has been allocated over $50m and will look to invest in external companies as well as spinning off innovative technology through an incubator model.

Worker at a lit up grid station at night

Terna, the operator of Italy’s national energy grid, launched a subsidiary called Terna Forward today that will invest up an initial €50m ($51.8m) in startups as part of a technological innovation push.

The special purpose vehicle will target companies ranging from early-stage startups to large enterprises, making direct equity investments and offering project development support.

Terna is also open to using the initiative to incubate new projects and spinoffs using innovative technology, and said it has more than 70 innovation projects under development. Technologies found through Terna Forward will also be introduced to other business units within the company.

Massimiliano Garri, Terna’s head of innovation and market solutions, said: “Innovation is a strategic driver of our business and with Terna Forward we have decided to focus attention and specific resources on highly advanced technology and digitalisation, with an open-innovation approach, further opening ourselves up to partnerships with other enterprises and investing in those with high growth potential.

“New technologies will play a key role in enabling the energy transition, benefiting the entire electricity system. In this area, Terna has allocated approximately €1.2bn of investment, out of the €10bn total in the updated 2021-2025 “Driving Energy” Business Plan, for digitalisation and innovation”.

Terna is not the first energy company in Italy to explore corporate venture capital. Oil and gas producer Eni has over $500m under management through its Eni Next subsidiary while gas and electricity distributor Enel ran an incubator scheme called Enel Lab back in 2013.

In a wider sense, insurer Generali, postal service Poste Italiane and Telecom Italia’s TIM Ventures subsidiary are all active CVC investors in the country. more recently, financial services firm Intesa Sanpaolo formed a €250m early-stage fund called Neva First Fund in September dedicated to Italian technology.

Photos courtesy of Terna S.p.A.