Tomorrow’s energy system needs new thinking, new technologies and new approaches to Renewables & Energy Solutions.

Following its mission to research, develop and innovate new energy solutions, Shell and its partners launched the 5th edition of the New Energy Challenge (NEC). The NEC is an annual competition to help start-ups develop robust commercial and technical models and shape the energy system of the future. Jointly organised by Get in the Ring, Rockstart, Shell and YES!Delft, NEC is open to European and Israeli start-ups and scale-ups, and is one of a number of programmes that connects start-ups with investors and experts, unlocking knowledge, contacts, funding and support needed to scale their business and help them drive change in the energy system.

With prior experience in organising the 2019 edition, the New Energy Challenge organisation once again entrusted MCI The Netherlands with the task, now with the added challenge of transforming the event to work online.

The transformation

Back in 2019, attendees of the NEC were taken to the city of Amsterdam where they enjoyed a weeklong live experience. Due to physical interaction being challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NEC needed to convert to the online space, like many other events around the world.

Transforming a live event into a virtual format can be a challenging task. One cannot simply place the experience behind the screen if they wish to reach the same goals as they would with a physical event; there is a need to ideate a new concept from scratch. That is why, to make the experience engaging and match the stakeholder expectations, MCI the Netherlands used their D.I.V.E. methodology, collaboratively addressing the main aims and needs of clients to ensure maximum engagement of the first digital edition of NEC.

Despite the change of the format, the main characteristics of the NEC remained the same: providing collaboration and networking possibilities for startups and scale-ups by matching them with high-end stakeholders. And after thorough business and participant assessment, the NEC virtual platform and program was created. The MCI team also took responsibility for the end-to-end project management, including the full organisation of logistics, supplier and stakeholder/partner management.

Finalists’ experience journey in digital

Together with their suppliers, MCI The Netherlands helped develop two virtual platforms, one for start-ups and one for scale-ups. Via these platforms, participants received coaching and pre-organisational materials such as workshops, partner sessions and further instructions.

Online fatigue is a real challenge to consider. That is why the program timeframe extended to 3 weeks, with information shared in a disseminated manner. This way, participants were not overwhelmed with information and had enough time to manage their businesses and get ample support through coaching in preparation for the final event.

As the challenge took place virtually, which was unusual for the participants, it was crucial that both finalists and spectators engaged with the program. To make the experience journey of the finalists as engaging as possible, the team incorporated interactive touch-points and constant professional support into the program. One such touchpoint was event experience boxes with customised NEC items that were sent to the finalists. The experience was designed to provide effective collaboration, guidance and knowledge to the finalists, keeping them interested and focused even through the screen of their laptops. And the platforms, which came out as a total success according to participant feedback, were made possible thanks to the solid relationships and efficient collaboration with MCI suppliers.

New Energy Challenge 2020 platform screen

Talk show as the key element

As a part of the engagement strategy, the concluding day of the program converted into an exclusive, invitation-only 1.5-hour talk show including finalist showcases, expert talks, interactive quizzes for the audience and the announcement of the two winners. The recording process of the talk show took place in a live TV studio, adding a hybrid element to the virtual experience. High-level speakers and partners were invited to the physical studio to share their thoughts on alternative energy sources and discuss the finalist’s cases during the broadcast. And because it’s all in the finer details, a drum sound exclusively developed for the NEC as a unique detail appeared in the winner announcements and the theme of the show.

Along with the talk show, the team created a separate platform through which stakeholders could access important event information, finalist showcases and watch the live stream of the final broadcast. The MCI team provided design and management of the virtual platform, as well as took part in the creation and production of the show.

New Energy Challenge visual event

Global reach

Despite the talk show being exclusively available, it was viewed by people from across the world. The virtual setting made the experience accessible for a wider international audience, which ensured global reach.

Numerous positive feedbacks from both the finalists and stakeholders contributed to the fact that the NEC 2020 was the best edition in 5 years. And even though adjusting the physical event to virtual had its challenges and concerns, the MCI team managed to meet all key performance indicators making the event a total success in the digital environment.