2 min reading

Co-shaping the future with start-ups

To stay ahead of the latest trends, Elia Group needs to surround itself with agile partners offering innovative solutions to meet the challenges facing the energy landscape both now and in the future. With this in mind, in 2017 the Innovation Department created Startup@Elia Group, an explorer of ideas (or speedboat) responsible for expanding and enhancing our competencies by developing a start-up ecosystem.

Josephine Delmote, the Group’s contact person for start-ups, says: “I often attend start-up events to find new potential partners, keep myself up to date and make initial contact. Accelerace, a Danish accelerator, also helps me target my research and select the start-ups that meet our needs. I then hand over to the Innovation Department, which analyses these start-ups and, if they look promising, presents them to the relevant department. I also receive unsolicited requests from the business, which is gaining a better understanding of the purpose of Startup@Elia Group.”

The Linear Asset & Support Asset Management and Maintenance Departments in southern Belgium are just two of the departments to have joined forces with start-ups in this way. They took the initiative to partner with Qualitics, a small company that uses drones and artificial intelligence to assess our assets for damage or deterioration.

Asset Manager Karen De Smedt supervised the first field test in Eupen in May: “For some years now, LA&S Asset Management has been organising detailed inspections at height , or microview inspections, to determine the condition of our overhead lines. The LA&S Maintenance Department has similar needs for its maintenance work. The growing number of ongoing projects makes it difficult to find people with the right skills to carry out these inspections. Using drones seems to be a good alternative, so we decided to test them in four rounds of inspections targeting equipment, concrete pylons, metal structures and paintwork.”

Enthusiastic, Karen adds: “Our tests aim to achieve three things: confirm that a drone-based approach can be used for this type of inspection; automate, as much as possible, the processing of images taken by the drones; and finally, determine a work procedure for use both in-house and with outside partners. We have had very constructive discussions with everyone involved in the project, enabling us to draw on their experience to establish a work method and procedure in just a few weeks. We will assess the results over the next few weeks to devise a specific strategy for these microview inspections.”

Working with a start-up really boosts innovation within Elia Group.

The flexibility of start-ups plays a key role in our partnerships, especially when the results are not immediately conclusive. The ongoing test involving the start-up Tangent Works (TW) and our colleagues from the National Control Centre (NCC) and Innovation is a case in point.

“We are currently testing TW’s tool, which can predict system imbalances 15, 30 and 45 minutes before they occur. Although the data still need to be refined, the tests performed last year indicate that the tool, which uses machine learning technology, is effective. The next step will be to develop the IT infrastructure required to industrialise the process and make it available to Dispatching,” explains Arnaud Attanasi from the Energy Scheduling & Balancing Department.

“The TW team are very responsive and are doing a great job of following up the project. We also have direct access to their team of scientists and programmers, which is quite an advantage!