This column will examine through the prism of Spain-based Telefonica why it is that many companies in the telecoms sector have caught the corporate venturing bug in a big way. Last week, Telefonica raised a €300m ($377m) corporate venturing group of funds, named Amerigo (name-checking the discoverer of South America, Amerigo Vespucci). At the same time Germany-based Deutsche Telekom’s T-Venture flagged to news provider Bloomberg that it is changing its corporate venturing strategy to make its decision-making process faster and to allow it to acquire majority stakes.

A director at Amerigo detailed Telefonica’s strategy further. The director said: “The objective is to be near to innovation in each country.  A corporation is not capable of innovating at the rhythm of small companies.”

It has set up funds in Colombia, Chile and Brazil, with two more funds in its home market of Spain. Telefonica itself has put in €68m to invest in the next five years and with each of the individual countries’ governments exactly matching Telefonica’s investments – the private sector makes up the remainder of the funds. The director added Telefonica is looking for strategic technological partners for Amerigo in each of the countries in which it is operating and will operate in the future. This plan puts Telefonica in-line to benefit from the current relative strength of South America, where the company has a strong presence.

Amerigo is a later-stage effort than Wayra, Telefonica’s incubator programme, which has now invested in more than 140 companies globally after launching last year, while Telefonica also runs the Telefonica Ventures for more developed entrepreneurial businesses. These are all part of Telefonica Digital – a UK-based subsidiary set up with a desire on part of the company to be more open and tap innovation from different sources.

The three-pronged venturing approach is at first difficult to understand, as some entrepreneurs privately complain, but it will be interesting to see if the approach is successful, as each of the three styles of investment has been structured differently. I suspect it could become a business school case study either way.

The decision to set up Amerigo with an independent fund structure, means it has hired more financial investors than it might have done otherwise for the project. The teams have come from the world of venture capital and are working alongside executives from Telefonica. The company expects to invest €1m to €2m on average in most deals, although this will vary case to case.

In an effort to ensure any financial returns also provide strategic advantages for Telefonica, Amerigo has to invest in sectors of importance to the corporation, such as mobile payments, mobile content and cloud technology.

The emphasis on corporate venturing in telecommunications is logical, given the amount of disruption the sector faces from technology and competition generally. Once composed of largely state-run monopolies, the industry is now more competitive and being transformed apace – by the growing power of handset and tablet manufacturers as well as voice-over-internet-protocol software from providers such as Skype, which disintermediate their established businesses. The fact Skype is now owned by Microsoft , Google runs its Android platform, and Apple is the biggest US company is telling as to where the biggest threat to the sector lies – while Telefonica’s push in the digital sector came after the acquisition of Jajah, a Skype competitor.

As the pace of technological change across industries increases, you can imagine the focus on corporate venturing will increase in many of the sectors deemed utilities from energy, water, to transport – which of course already have a number of enthusiastic thought leaders. One would imagine corporate venturing telecommunications executives that have already attempted to protect their platforms from burning at the hands of technology’s destructive flames, will be in demand across these industries, when a realisation sets in that that industry will face the same problem.