Man discussing new ideas with the team

What can a regulated utility offer an innovator?

If you’re an industry innovator, you might not immediately think of National Grid as the ideal partner to help you more quickly and confidently bring your new value proposition to market.

Regulated utilities, after all, have not historically been known as hotbeds of market disruption.

In fact, the typical utility’s core business model primarily entails making large capital investments in physical infrastructure—and then maintaining that infrastructure over time to optimize efficiency and minimize risk. That certainly isn’t the classic formula for birthing a disruptive unicorn.

Through our exciting new National Grid Partners business unit, however, National Grid is aggressively developing, fostering, and investing in innovation. So I’d like to highlight three key reasons that we might just be the innovation partner you’re looking for:


We’re a rich source of high-value, highly transferrable IP

Lots of innovators have great ideas. Many can launch impressive pilots. But they often get into trouble when they start to build out to scale in the real world.

National Grid obviously has vast experience in managing scale—and the complexities that come with it. We’ve also proven highly adept at coping with change, given how the energy industry has faced intense disruptions such as the ascendancy of renewables and the emerging phenomenon of transport electrification.

Innovators with great ideas also often encounter unexpected challenges as their growth forces them to confront issues such as regulatory compliance, international deal-making, mature governance of HR and procurement, and risk management.

Here, again, National Grid has proven methodologies that are readily transferrable to innovators who seek rapid growth—but who also recognize the importance of keeping the road to that growth free of the speed bumps that so often derail even the most potentially promising ventures.


We pick up very early signals of market trends and disruptions

Due to our position in the center of the energy sector, National Grid picks up early signals about incipient changes in the market. We therefore constantly scout out new technologies that enable us to respond to change by becoming more productive, more adaptively supporting ongoing growth, and providing better customer experiences at scale.

Plus, because it’s our job to help business customers with their unique energy requirements, we’re also highly attuned to emerging changes taking place in other market sectors. We’re always engaging with leading stakeholders in these markets to understand their roadmaps so we can anticipate their requirements.

National Grid’s customers, in other words, tell us a lot about what’s going on in the world. And that early insight is something every innovator values.


A culture of mission-driven engineering

It has often been noted that culture trumps strategy. And there’s a lot of truth to that. Your team can’t execute on a business strategy that isn’t supported and nurtured by its core culture.

This is an area where National Grid really shines. As an organization that has been tasked for decades with the reliable, efficient delivery of power where and when it’s needed, we have established a potent organizational culture of mission-driven engineering. We are individually and collectively dedicated to solving technical problems to meet the needs of diverse constituencies—and we do it really well.

That’s the same kind of culture that innovators must foster in their own organizations as they grow in size and market reach. So we’re not only a good cultural fit for today’s engineering-oriented market disruptors. We might even be able to offer a little bit of positive cultural contagion.

We have lots of other value to offer to innovators as well: top technical expertise, broad international business relationships, savvy veteran business leaders. But I think the three attributes above are particularly notable.

Sure, National Grid is best known for operating highly reliable electricity and gas networks, engineering large-scale energy infrastructure, and providing differentiated retail customer service. But through National Grid Partners, we’re also delivering a compelling value proposition for innovators across all industries—especially for those intent on building businesses that are as durable as they are disruptive.


Stephen Marland is Director of Innovation for National Grid Partners.