Start-up launch pad: EU and UK

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Meet the start-ups that are disrupting, inspiring and evolving the energy sector.

Smart Energy International and Initiate! have dedicated this space to supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem and celebrating champions of innovation.

To this end, in each issue of Smart Energy International we will be highlighting a selection of highly innovative small ventures from across the globe.

Initiate! is a global movement that spotlights talent, empowers the next generation of energy entrepreneurs and creates impactful programmes to move the industry forward.

Enjoy reading about four European start-ups and scale-ups, whose solutions are already making a positive contribution.

LiveEO

Co-founder & COO Sven Przywarra

What is cool about LiveEO?

We are a space company that solves real-life problems here on Earth. By applying advanced machine learning technology and AI to up-to-date satellite imagery, we identify risks to the assets of utilities and operators of other linear infrastructure around the world.

You can’t escape the news of new rockets being launched and tested, and the endeavours to colonise Mars – there’s a lot happening in the space sector right now. As part of this new space wave, we are taking advantage of the dramatic increase in the number of Earth observation satellites being put into orbit each year.

Our team brings together machine learning specialists, GEO engineers, web developers and energy industry experts to use the data generated by satellites to make power grids more resilient and their operations more efficient.

Main area of impact

Our vegetation management solution automatically detects vegetation in and near the rights-of-way of electric transmission and distribution lines, railroads, and pipelines. The software can accurately identify vegetation and also determine its height and vitality – in near real-time and for the entire network at once.

Automated risk assessment helps operators identify critical sections of the network. Actionable insights are made available to end users via a web app. Managers can schedule inspections and cutbacks along the network and directly assign tasks directly to ground workers. This process allows utilities to move from a cycle-based to a condition-based maintenance process, saving time and money.

For railroads and pipelines, ground deformations pose a serious safety risk as they can lead to accidents such as derailments or leaks. Using radar data collected by satellites, we are able to detect movements with millimetre accuracy along thousands of miles of the network on a continuous basis and even include historical data.

Finally, we also provide third party detection along infrastructure networks. For example, if unauthorised construction is taking place over an underground pipeline, it can potentially lead to catastrophic accidents. Continuous monitoring of the network for changes can prevent this.

Words of wisdom for other start-ups?

You can look at our product and business model from three different angles: We bring value from space technology to earth; we use advanced analytics to enable better data-driven decision making; we provide an end-to-end solution with great UX, to drive digital transformation and process optimization for our customers.

I believe there are huge business opportunities for all three of these elements in the energy industry and elsewhere. We are having great conversations with our customers who welcome innovative solutions to improve each element of their value chain – so now is a great time!

Learn more at https://live-eo.com

Co-founder & CEO Parveen Begum

Solisco

What is cool about Solisco?

Solisco in Latin translates to ‘sun-drive’. And that’s exactly what we’re about. We want to give people the freedom of energy by utilising the power of the sun to drive their electric vehicles, their homes and their businesses.

It all started when I was working for electric car trailblazers Tesla, and wondered how we could avoid charging the vehicles with potentially ‘dirty’ energy when the EV itself is supposed to be a green alternative to an internal combustion vehicle. That’s when I met an engineer Mark Maurice, who had already installed a carport for his EV and started talking with me about all the great benefits.

I soon realised that a solar carport would be the perfect product for the industry; not only would it produce clean energy for vehicles as a micro grid onsite, but also it would create the perfect signal for both EV and non EV drivers. So I joined forces with Mark and we started the company in 2016.

Soon after, I left Tesla, and started reaching out to industry leaders in charging, battery storage and solar canopies, creating partnerships which lead to being able to offer consultancy, design and planning, as well as supply and installation of solar carparks.

We realised that if we want to play a role in transitioning to cleaner energy, than collaboration instead of competition is key.

Main area of impact

Solisco is as a company that started before the electric revolution really took off, which meant that we invested a lot in raising awareness of the EV market and available charging infrastructure, educating and engaging the public on the ecosystem approach that we adopted when it came to clean charging infrastructure. And education has become the heartbeat of Solisco.

Outdoor air pollution contributes to about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK, according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health.

By installing such infrastructure, not only are we promoting the uptake of EVs but also instantly decreasing carbon emissions through on-site solar generation.

We worked on a feasibility study in 2019 with the West Midlands Combined Authority, focusing on train station carparks. We found that having solar carparks across such sites would lead to an increase in public health and quality of life for local residents.

Installing solar PV at a large-scale public facing train station (such as at Rowley Regis, West Midlands) could abate 8.5 tonnes of CO2 from not using grid electricity. This is equivalent to the emissions of approximately 2,000 passenger vehicles driven for one year in normal conditions.

Words of wisdom for other start-ups?

My advice would be if you have an idea, don’t wait until you have all the answers. “Even if you are 60% there, just go for it!” Those are the words of Richard Branson, who was the keynote speaker at an event that we attended in Canada a year after launching Solisco. These words made me realise that I wasn’t even 60% there!

When we started the company, all we had was an idea, and at that point we had only met with one other collaborator who thought our idea was a good one. And with that we dived straight in and although it has not always been easy; we’ve come a long way; educating, paving the way for clean infrastructure and demonstrating that it can be done differently and better.

Be ambitious. Be tenacious. Be you. Best of luck!

Learn more at https://solisco.co.uk

Finno Exergy

Co-founder & CTO Heikki Salminen

What is cool about Finno Exergy?

We cracked a problem that the giants have tried but failed to solve.

It was known for a long time that to create the most efficient gas turbine, you would need to make a combustion system able to not only increase the temperature of the working medium, but also its pressure. This is called Pressure Gain Combustion (PGC). Everyone knew what they needed to do, but no-one knew how to do it.

How did we get it done? We just had a better idea and a practical approach. Also, we had no other reason for our existence than to make those ideas work.

We needed to combine several disciplines of engineering science to accomplish the goals we were after.

We assembled a small team of young engineers with the talent and education needed to use cutting-edge engineering tools; and to deliver results. I benefitted a lot from collaboration with my personal network within the industry and academic world, as well as with the motor racing community. That way we got support to the team to design and manufacture the key components for our PGC record-breaking test unit, the Device.

The value of our innovation is founded on deep-level physics, creating an advantage whenever our technology is applied to an engine. Our goal is to make it an everyday thing that works so well that nobody even notices, except it makes less pollution and runs cheaper.

We keep an eye on other developments, too; for example, we are learning the advantages of additive manufacturing with EnergyVaasa 3D Center. 

In November 2020, our work was acknowledged by a win in the Shell-sponsored New Energy Challenge. With that win, we got access to the Shell GameChanger programme, and now work with business development experts, to make progress towards collaborating with big industry players.

Main area of impact

Air travel, making electricity, making ships move. Wherever you need to make a lot of power, but making less pollution.

Applications are in aircraft engines of any kind, such as a turbofan or turboprop, as well as in land-based electricity generation, both large and small. We can make the prime movers creating power and electricity work cheaper, with more power. Our technology is exceptionally well suited for the utilisation of synthetic and carbon neutral fuels and in a very flexible way, according to availability.

The wide applicability means the potential impact is huge. In aircraft engines alone, it has the potential to reduce global greenhouse emissions by several times more than anything that can be done solely in Finland, while improving profitability of airline companies.

Words of wisdom for other start-ups?

Be prepared to prove yourself when introducing a ground-breaking solution to established markets. Nobody wants their good business disturbed. Nevertheless, having a product that provides a genuine advantage to the company in possession of the technology will put you in a strong position.

Learn more at www.finnoexergy.com

Sympower

Founder & CEO Simon Bushell

What is cool about Sympower?

We are living proof that the planet, people, profit and partners can go hand-in-hand.

Planet: we save CO2 emissions by reducing the reliance on fossil fuels. We supply up to 0.5 GW of balancing services to TSOs, eliminating the need for several fossil fuel plants to supply the same.

People: we make energy markets accessible to many more players, such as small businesses, working with over 150 businesses across four countries

Profit: we help traditional industries generate extra revenue, as well as saving costs by reducing their energy consumption. We do this with a team of 50 people, comprising over 15 nationalities!

Partners: to achieve the radical changes needed in the energy transition, working together is essential:

We work together with TSOs, commercial and industrial businesses, e.g. the owners of flexible appliances, and with energy companies, such as Vattenfall in Sweden.

Sympower’s expertise in industrial flexibility and our white-labelled software platform creates win-win-win situations.

Main area of impact

We accelerate the transition to a fully renewable energy system by making existing processes and assets flexible and using that flexibility to balance an increasingly volatile electricity system.

To achieve the 30% renewable energy generation by 2030 target set by the EU, we must find new ways to address both peaks of energy demand and electricity surplus instead of existing, unsustainable sources of flexibility such as coal and gas. Here is where demand response and other sources of distributed, sustainable flexibility, can play an important role.

We unlock the flexibility of electric assets across industries, from steel smelting to solar panels, electric vehicles to paper production, and maximise the value of this flexibility across energy markets.

When the grid is out of balance, we temporarily adjust the power of machines and processes through our advanced and automated demand response capabilities. By providing non-intrusive software solutions, we allow our customers to enhance the value of their electrical assets and empower traditional industries to become more sustainable and enable the shift from fossil fuels to renewables.

Words of wisdom for other start-ups?

Shape the best company culture. As you rapidly grow and expand to new countries, make sure to keep up the mission-driven culture of the early days to keep your team motivated and committed. While it’s undoubtedly more difficult than usual in the age of remote working, spending (virtual) time with people when possible is incredibly important.

Some concrete examples: Arrange regular (virtual) events for all employees, such as knowledge-sharing sessions and drinks; and make new team members feel welcome by properly introducing them to the whole team and scheduling regular check-ins with them Learn more at https://sympower.net/

Initiate! is a global movement that spotlights talent, empowers the next generation of energy entrepreneurs and creates impactful programmes to move the industry forward. We look forward to seeing how these companies grow from strength to strength and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of their journey. To learn more about Initiate, visit www.initiate-global.com or www.smart-energy.com/initiate