Polish petrol giant PKN ORLEN charts energy, mobility transformation with Emerald partnership

PKN ORLEN has formed Poland’s largest corporate venture capital (CVC) fund, which is to invest around EUR 100m (ca. PLN 500m) over ten years in innovative projects, ultimately stepping up new technology development in line with the ORLEN2030 strategy. Through direct and indirect investments in start-ups, ORLEN VC will develop new business models that will strengthen the Group’s international position.

‘The VC fund is another milestone on the path to grow business in the field of innovative technologies that are vital for the ORLEN Group’s future operations. Our achievements to date include the Research and Development Centre in Płock and the ORLEN Skylight accelerator programme. Rapid technological advances, particularly in energy generation, are the future of PKN ORLEN’s business, also providing a real boost to security both in Poland and the entire region. Our own venture capital fund will forge partnerships with tech companies and will seek out innovative solutions to support the formation of a modern, zero-carbon and stable multi-utility business organisation,’ said Daniel Obajtek, President of the PKN ORLEN Management Board.

ORLEN VC has already made its first investment. The fund has become a new partner of Emerald Technology Ventures’ industrial fund, investing EUR 10m (ca. PLN 47m). Emerald is a Swiss-based global investment fund managed by an experienced team with a focus on sustainable industrial innovation. As many as 30 companies have invested their money in the fund, mainly global energy, chemical and industrial majors including Chevron, ABB, Michelin, SABIC and Suncor Energy.

‘PKN Orlen’s commitment to succeeding in the energy transition is a testament to its leading position in Eastern Europe and beyond,’ said Gina Domanig, Emerald Managing Partner. ‘We look forward to helping it gain access to the innovations of tomorrow and become a model for similar firms navigating this new era.’

ORLEN VC is to invest around EUR 100m (ca. PLN 500m) over the next decade. The company is also one of the top CVC industry leaders in Central and Eastern Europe. With the transaction, PKN ORLEN has joined global oil and gas, chemical and energy industry leaders operating their own CVC funds, such as Shell Technology Ventures, BP Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, Equinor and Saudi Aramco, with investment budgets starting from approximately EUR 150m.

ORLEN VC’s investment focus is on the following industries: petrochemicals, energy (transition, efficiency, digitalisation, renewables, storage), circular economy (recycling, waste management), modern retail (automation of purchasing processes and digitalisation of sales and logistics), next-generation biofuels, modern materials, new mobility, digitalisation (software, IOT), cyber security and industry 4.0.

ORLEN VC is a cornerstone of PKN ORLEN’s innovation ecosystem, which also includes the ORLEN Skylight accelerator launched last year. The accelerator is Poland’s first corporate acceleration scheme for technology start-ups with an international reach, targeted at early-stage innovative businesses from all over the world with a finished product or service proposal. Three acceleration rounds have been held so far, with over 220 applications received in response to just under 60 business and technology challenges. Having evaluated the submitted proposals, PKN ORLEN resolved to establish collaboration with 11 start-ups. The Group is currently implementing several pilot deployments.

Innovation development is further supported by the Research and Development Centre in Płock (RDC) that opened in May 2021. Facilitating proprietary technology development and implementation projects, the RDC performs tests aimed at streamlining technological processes, enhancing products and optimising costs. The first of the five pilot plants, reflecting refinery and petrochemical processes, were already built as part of the pilot plant lab operations. Later this year, pilot diesel hydrodesulfurization, reforming and pyrolysis units will be built at the RDC.

About Emerald Technology Ventures

Emerald is a globally recognized venture capital firm building a sustainable future at the crossroads of industry and technology. Founded in 2000, it is a pioneer in open innovation, providing multi-national corporations with rich deal flow and insight in the sectors and markets of tomorrow. Emerald has managed and advised assets of over €1 billion from its offices in Zurich, Toronto and Singapore. The firm is dedicated to tackling big challenges in climate change and sustainability via over 500 venture transactions and five third-party investment mandates, including loan guarantees to over 100 start-ups. www.emerald.vc