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TechX Cohort 3: Insights on delivering a virtual accelerator


Stuart MacKinven

Stuart MacKinven

TechX Delivery Manager

Not many could have foreseen COVID-19 and its affects that have rippled across the globe and impacted every economic sector. This completely blindsided us – let’s face it, it’s nothing the majority of us have ever experienced in our lifetime and it’s not something you ever really factor into a risk register when preparing to operationalise a technology accelerator programme. It doesn’t even enter your consciousness.

In March of 2020, the team had reached a significant milestone and successfully completed a full schedule of all activities we wanted to deliver within the TechX Accelerator Programme for this year’s intake of start-ups. Little did we know we had wasted months of work!

With each TechX cohort, we try and make it bigger and better than its predecessor, and try to incorporate the learnings we have gathered so that the experience for our newest Pioneers is as good as can be. Unbeknownst to us, we would be faced with probably one of the biggest dilemmas we’ve ever encountered as a team. Do we postpone the programme to later in the year or even cancel? Our greatest fear was questioning whether or not our award-winning programme could even be delivered in an online environment…

…We concluded that it could not. Well, not in the way it was currently designed. Needless to say, this would require a considerable effort in re-shaping the programme if we were to pull it off. Not without considerable debate, we decided to step up to the challenge, forge ahead and design a programme that could be delivered virtually. But most importantly, it had to be just as engaging and just as impactful for the entrepreneurs.

One of the biggest driving factors in our decision making was to simply not let the Pioneers down. They had put so much time, effort and hard work in to making it this far: fending off international competition, delivering engaging pitches and making it to the finals. We really felt an obligation to find a way to make this year’s programme possible. Cancelling was never an option.

A calendar highlight for the Pioneers has always been the TechX Customer Showcase events. Historically, these have been delivered at CNOOC International’s Aberdeen office and also BP’s North Sea Headquarters. However, our hand was forced to pivot this year. By leveraging digital technologies, we are now enabling our Strategic Partners, BP and Equinor to have their global teams from both Eastern and Western Hemispheres meet and engage with the Founders and Co-Founders of the Pioneer businesses on a digital platform. This shift online will give the Pioneers even greater visibility and exposure across these organisations than ever before.

Looking back, I am extremely pleased with the decision we have made. Getting to know the Pioneers I will be working with over the next 16 weeks has been brilliant. While they are small squares on our laptop screens for now, their ideas and enthusiasm is infectious. Despite being limited to video call conversations, nothing is going to hold them back as they look to leverage the benefits of the programme to further develop their business and grow. Who knew I would be looking to source wellhead equipment from OEM vendors, finding data sets on contractors, and helping to broker the set up of a corporate bank account – and that’s all before the programme has even officially started!

This year we have two wells focused technologies, one asset integrity, one decommissioning solution, two digital transformation solutions and a whopping six net zero focused start-ups, which equals to 50% of this year’s cohort being focused on cleantech!

You can find out more about our TechX Pioneer start-ups here. Follow their journey on the OGTC’s social channels and see their development in action as we accelerate their future.

The future virtually here.