Four SMEs take on the DigiFed innovation challenges set by large European organisations to create new business opportunities

CATIE, Aguila Technologies, Instrumentation technologies and ISY map are the selected SME companies that will support GE Hydro, EDF Hydro and Acciona in their Digital innovation ambitions.

In January 2020 the DigiFed project set out, through its Digital Challenge innovation pathway, to foster collaboration between large European industries and innovative SMEs to solving unique challenges involving the digitalisation of specific products and services. Since the launch of the programme, DigiFed has engaged with its partners and collaborators across the ecosystem and onboarded three large organisations: GE Hydro and EDF Hydro from France and Acciona from Spain.

Digital innovation experts at DigiFed have organised two open calls for these organisations in 2020 and 2021 to identify solution providers to their unique challenges.

The first open call, with GE Hydro, attracted interest from 35-40 innovators across Europe, with 8 applications being submitted for the final stage of the open call which resulted in the selection of CATIE and AQUILA as the solution provider for GE Hydro’s challenge.

In 2021, DigiFed launched the second Digital Challenge Open Call with EDF Hydro and Acciona as Digital Challenge Owners. Their unique challenges, from niche industries, attracted interest from around 40 European innovators with 14 applications being received from the final stage of the open call. This second open call resulted in the selection of Instrumentation Technologies from Slovenia as a solution provider for Acciona’s challenge and ISYmap from France as a solution provider for EDF Hydro’s challenge.

Each of the Digital Challenge projects has an approximate 12 months duration with each of the applicants receiving between 100k and 110k Euro from both DigiFed and the Digital Challenge Owners, Digital Challenge Owners co-financing these project with 50% of the funding.

GE Hydro France Digital Challange (Open Call launched in September 2020, 3rd party selected in March 2021)

GE Hydro France is a business that provides a comprehensive range of energy solutions (Large & Small new Hydro Projects, Storage, Digital solutions), from design to commissioning, as well as Services for the maintenance and upgrades of all the hydro plants through their life cycle. The organisation is entering Industry 4.0 and looking for solutions to build an AIOT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) system of systems to prove that an IIOT family with common features can cover a large type of components, is profitable and robust enough as smart data collectors and is able to share data on local brokers, exchange information between nodes and fits in the GE ecosystem.

Their challenge focuses on building an IIoT solution with embedded AI enabling rapid and custom-made prototyping, design for scalability and industrialization on a specific use-case (MIV : Main inlet valve is a valve which is installed before water enters into spiral casing of the hydro turbine.).

CATIE and Aguila Technologies, along with Digifed’s Minalogic, have taken up the challenge.  CATIE, a digital technology transfer centre that brings the 6TRON platform and its expertise in embedded system design, and Aguila Technologies which brings its industrial know-how and industrial design expertise, are set to offer a complete IIoT solution with embedded AI enabling rapid and customizable prototyping, designed for scalability and industrialization.

To tackle GE Hydro’s challenge CATIE and Aguila Technologies will design and implement the IIoT solution to read, synchronize and record sensor data. A custom-made solution for the MIV monitoring and failure detection will be available at the end of this project. CATIE is the leading partner and involved in two main aspects: the design and prototyping of the IIoT solution and the data modelling and embedded AI with a strong help from GE Hydro experts for AI modeling and embedded strategies. CATIE is also involved in the integration and test phase to ensure an agile development of the Cyber-Physical Systems embedding GE Hydro expertise for feature extraction and data processing. It will be ready for industrialization process by design and packaged with sensors, processing, power management and connectivity. A device management system will be also included. For more information on the GE Hydro challenge please visit this page.

Acciona Digital Challenge  (Open Call launched in June 2021, 3rd party selected in November 2021)

Acciona  is a global company with a business model based on sustainability and is operating in more than 30 countries on 5 continents. The water business of Acciona is putting its innovative and technical potential into action to create solutions to water scarcity, sanitation problems, access to this vital resource and increased demand.

Their proposed challenge focuses on water control and monitoring solutions and in understanding how they can optimise the operations of reverse osmosis desalination plants.More specifically, Accionais looking to establish an end-to-end digital solution for measuring, reporting, and visualizing the performance of each reverse osmosis membrane from pressure vessels part of their desalination facilities.

Instrumentation Technologies from Slovenia with the support from DigiFed partners and Digital Catapult have taken up this challenge. A high-tech company, Instrumentation Technologies was funded in 1998 to offer specialized and customized solutions for particle accelerators. The highly qualified engineering team is a world-leading provider of beam position stabilization systems, globally renowned by the brand name Libera. Utilizing the knowledge gained in the demanding field of high energy physics, Instrumentation Technologies expanded to offer expertise in other sectors, such as automotive, energy, IoT, Smart Cities, telecommunications, aerospace, and many others. The well-experienced, ISO 9001 certified engineering team specializes in developing customized Data Acquisition devices, focusing on Sensorics, Data Acquisition and Processing, and Communication.

To tackle Acciona’s challenge, Instrumentation Technologies’ team provides SWICSSY, a solution that reduces cost, saves time and allows the operators of desalination facilities to obtain the desired data on demand. With this solution, Acciona will be able to remotely monitor the membranes continuously and in real-time, without stopping the operation of the plant. More specifically, SWICSSY will enable Acciona to: assess the performance of the reverse osmosis membranes in real-time; have the visibility of the pressure vessel’s performance and easily identify the problematic reverse osmosis membrane inside the vessel; and integrate performance measurements as part of active operational strategies.

SWICSSY will represent a significant improvement, especially for large desalination facilities with thousands of RO (Reverse Osmosis) membranes. For more information about the Acciona challenge please visit this page.

EDF Hydro France Digital Challange (Open Call launched in June 2021, 3rd party selected in November 2021)

For 70 years, EDF Hydro has been designing, building, renovating and operating one of Europe’s largest hydroelectric plants. With 20 GW of installed capacity and almost 10% of its electricity supplied by hydroelectricity, EDF Hydro is now the leader in hydroelectric energy in the European Union. The organisation partners with DigiFed to address one of its key challenges on hydraulic inspection and it is looking for a solution  helping hydroelectric power unit disassembling during equipment maintenance operation.

In the short term, the solution should allow inspection of some parts of the turbine that EDF Hydro have never seen before without equipment disassembly, whilst in the long term, the solution could help EDF Hydro create well-structure plans for maintenance of their groups.

EDF Hydro will be working with ISY map to resolve this challenge; ISY map is a start-up founded in 2016 focused on developing, manufacturing, and commercializing innovative systems to measure and map severe areas. ISY map expertise is around the conception and realization of embedded systems for remote and wireless measurements. They develop small and smart sensors and the associated software to get data and analyze information in real time. Their aim is to get data everywhere and their main markets are nuclear, defense and security.

To support EDF Hydro, ISY map will develop a miniaturized, lightweight and wireless inspection robot with an ultra-high-definition camera and strong mobility, it will be able to navigate inside small and complex environment. Multiple communication technologies will be embedded inside ISYBot in order to provide a resilient and reliable solution even in complex environment with heavy concrete or metallic structure. The targeted markets for ISYBot are industry (nuclear, chemical and hydro), civil security and military. For more information about the EDF Hydro challenge please visit this page.