Innovation and R&D
In 2016, Shell continued to invest in research and development (R&D) with a view to improve the efficiency of its products, processes and operations, and to develop new technologies that aid the world’s transition to a low-carbon system. Specifically, R&D spending in 2016 amounted to $1,014 million. (In 2015 and 2014, it amounted to $1,093 million and $1,222 million, respectively.)
Shell’s R&D activities are carried out through P&T’s global network of technology centres with major hubs in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Houston, USA; and Bangalore, India. The Shell Technology Centre Bangalore is the latest hub to be housed in newly constructed premises. The site was officially opened in March 2017 (see “In Focus: Shell Technology Centre Bangalore”).
Our in-house R&D activities are complemented by various collaborations with leading universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, Tsinghua University in China, and Imperial College in the UK. We also have three programmes through which other external parties can share the rewards (and risks) of innovation with us. These span both short- and longer-term technology developments.
This programme provides financial and technical support to prove the commercial viability of ideas that may be applicable not only to the oil and gas sector but also to alternative energy sources. Since 1996, more than 1,700 innovators have approached GameChanger, and GameChanger responded by helping to turn more than 100 of their ideas into reality. One of those ideas whose feasibility was assessed through GameChanger is now an ongoing Shell flagship project: the Prelude facility, which will produce and liquefy natural gas at sea.
GameChanger connects with early-stage start-ups as well as business incubators and seed-capital accelerators. One such accelerator, Cyclotron Road, organised a competition through which Opus 12 won the 2016 Shell GameChanger Innovation Challenge. Opus 12 seeks to recycle carbon dioxide into chemicals and fuels using an electrochemical process. (More information can be found at www.shell.com/gamechanger.)
Shell Technology Ventures (STV)
This is the corporate venturing arm through which Shell can become both an investor and a partner in companies that are developing promising technologies. STV invests mainly in companies in the oil and gas, new energy and information technology industries.
One of the recipients of STV’s investments in 2016 included California-based Growing Energy Labs, which provides software to design, connect and operate energy-storage systems and microgrids. Another STV investment was in Sense Labs, a Massachusetts-based company that has developed a device enabling households to monitor the energy use of any home appliance, using mobile devices.
In 2016, STV also invested in UK company Kite Power Systems (KPS). The investment will support the technical and commercial development of KPS’s high-altitude wind power generation technology. It is cheaper to manufacture and needs less construction and installation materials than conventional wind turbines. KPS came to the attention of STV through the GameChanger programme. (More information can be found at www.shell.com/techventures.)
Shell TechWorks (STW)
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, STW aims to accelerate the adoption in the oil and gas industry of proven technologies from other industries. Since its founding in 2013, STW has collaborated with various academic and non-academic entities to help develop and deploy technology quickly and cost-effectively. For example, STW collaborated with several private companies to develop a system for robot submarines to detect hydrocarbons that seep naturally from the seabed. This helps to locate new offshore resources at lower cost. (More information can be found at www.shell.com/techworks.)