How To Be a Successful Technology Scout

With the ever-changing landscape in the energy industry, innovation has become more critical than ever.


Innovation is key to survival for any company in any industry. Oil and gas organizations are no exception to this rule. With the ever-changing landscape in the energy industry, innovation has become more critical than ever. We need to constantly source new external technologies developed by potent idea centers such as startups and innovation hubs to feed the innovation pipeline.

Innovation groups in energy majors need to monitor frontiers to look for trends and disruptive technologies across the ecosystem. It is imperative to drive innovation by influencing an organization’s approach through new technologies, tools, partners, and practices. There is significant value to be realized through the integration of innovative technologies that are developed external to the parent organization. Senior management teams in these organizations need to create a culture of small, nimble, and focused workflows to enable these technologies and realize their untapped value.

Members of the innovation team need to leverage their relationships across the organization to open their aperture to a plethora of technologies. There are many common resources available for organizations to leverage in their understanding of the most recent landscape of the innovation village. These common resources include industry conferences, such as the SPE Annual Conference, technology scouting firms, ecosystems, and incubators.

Once we identify a company/startup, we follow a rigorous due-diligence process on several aspects of the organization. Some of these questions that are typically raised in this segment are

  • What is the value proposition, differentiation?
  • How strong is the intellectual property portfolio?
  • What are the specific milestones for derisking the product?
  • Who are the existing customers?
  • Who are the experts behind the novel technology?
  • What is the value added for the parent organization to partner with the startup?
  • What is the potential value capture?

As soon as we answer these questions with assurance, we then share the opportunity with key business unit personnel and subject matter experts to better understand the scope, the added value, and the scaling potential of the technology. If there is alignment across the board, we generally begin the evaluation through a pilot hardware innovation, new digital application, or the like. Internal documents are generated to record observations and learnings. Potential value captures are revised to accurately reflect the learnings from the pilot. These results are further shared across multiple businesses to facilitate widescale adoption, which then leads to real value capture for the organization.

In summary, the innovation team needs to maintain variety and momentum for the projects to create value. The business needs and the technology landscape are moving targets that make it imperative for our workflows to seek continuous realignment with focused business needs. It is extremely important to leverage key subject matter experts and technology champions to evaluate a technology appropriately. It is a balancing act to manage internal (within the organization) and external engagements (startups, innovation hubs, other activities) in order to frame a successful evaluation for scaling and adoption.

Here are some popular quotes heard from leaders in Chevron:

"Do not overwork the solution."

"Fall in love with the problem and not the solution."

"It’s the number of balls you catch that count, not the ones you drop."

At the risk of being overly prescriptive, we recommend professionals recognize their areas of strength and weaknesses and tailor their scouting strategy based on their individual experiences.

In our role at Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), we perform due diligence on emerging technologies related to subsurface and wells functions for potential use cases, venture capital investments, creating technology landscapes, and evaluation of potential value capture.

Why We Invest

CTV’s model has been developed over its 21-year history and uses two pipelinesinvestment and Chevron use—to effectively bring external innovation to Chevron and Chevron to external innovation. Investment in the startups and active participation in the ecosystem is key to a dynamic supplier base for our core business and gives us early insights on innovation—threats and opportunities—in our sector and adjacent verticals in energy, industry, transportation, and power. The used pipeline provides early technology validation and is an effective and collaborative pathway toward scaled use in Chevron.

Core Fund Investments start with Chevron’s base assets, businesses, and people and look at the innovation trends needed to transform oil and gas to compete in the energy system into the future. These technologies are mainly focused on lowering cost and carbon, and key to these investments is the Chevron use case—if these technologies work and can scale, how will Chevron apply them to achieve our base business objectives. The technologies include those developed specifically for our industry and those that have applicability across multiple sectors, and range from hardware to software to process technologies. As such, the coinvestors can be a narrow group focused on oil and gas, those focused on digitization across the economy, and those that are similar to Future Energy Fund investors.

Future Fund Investments start with the energy system and look at the innovation trends that will play a critical role as they become increasingly electrified, decarbonized, digitized, and decentralized. As with Core Investments, these technologies range from hardware and software to process technology and vary from hard science and technology challenges to ones where the challenges lie more squarely in business model, infrastructure, or consumer behaviors.

[The article was sourced from the authors by TWA editor Bita Bayestehparvin.]