Post-event: EIT InnoEnergy’s Impact Challenges 2020

“The students demonstrated a strong ability to think out-of-the-box”

In the end of October, Smart Innovation Norway was part of Impact Challenges for sustainable energy, where young energy students and professionals were given a challenge to find sustainable business models connected to the pilot sites of the Horizon 2020 E-LAND project.

By Farhan Farrukh and Mari Kristine Buckholm, 12 November 2020

“Smart Innovation Norway introduced the challenge on Design of unique business models for low-carbon Communities with Multi-Energy systems of E-LAND project. Out of the 5 teams, each team was given methodology and framework of Business Model Innovator (BMI) tool of E-LAND project to develop creative and unique business models for pilot sites of the project.” says Farhan Farrukh, Researcher in Smart Energy Technologies at Smart Innovation Norway.

The 3-day event was focused on utilizing various individual skills within each student group and learning the principles of Design thinking methodology to develop unique business cases. Together with fellow colleagues Sanket Puranik and Bryan Pellerin from Smart Innovation Norway and Dr. Merla from University of St. Gallen, Farrukh was mentoring the students and young professionals in their endeavors to solve the challenge.

Outcomes of the challenge

“All the mentors were excited and somewhat surprised by the approach taken by various teams and the creativity shown in each business model developed. There were some great solutions presented and very close competition among the team to get the winning title but the winning team was chosen based on their use of existing resources on pilot site and involving the local community to the maximum extent” explains Farrukh.

The winning team no. 5 (Valhalla), worked on the challenge related to the Walqa Technology park (1 out of 3 pilot sites in Europe for E-LAND project) and came up with a unique solution involving local community and resources to develop a sustainable business model.

“Working on the challenge by Smart Innovation Norway was difficult but rewarding. The challenge started with some unknown new territory; our team had to construct a business model for an energy community in Spain, Walqa Technology Park. In order to succeed, the team and myself had to work tirelessly to be able to develop a myriad of possibilities that could lead to a solution. After using the guidelines and the tool’s focus, we were able to focus our possibilities into a feasible business solution that addressed the concerns of Walqa Technology Park. At this point, our team went from exhaustion and desperation, to confidence and tempered pride. We were really excited about our idea when it came to present – and we still are!” says James Ryan Kronk (photo), EIT InnoEnergy master student.

The unique part of the overall challenge was the approach taken by each team towards solving the challenge and using the Business Model Innovator (BMI) tool of the E-LAND project to come to final solution.

Winning Solution: Valhalla Energy Shares

“We took our approach to the BMI tool in a unique way; we first developed many possible ideas that ranged all sorts of possibilities. Afterwards, we took the BMI tool and scrutinized each possible pattern under the tool in the tool’s ’round 1′. Then, we had a meeting with Smart Innovation Norway where they had stressed the absolute importance of the BMI tool. This had us re-do exactly this first round questioning, but with the intent to remove as many possibilities until we reach just one business case, which was our idea to have ‘energy technology shares’. It was then that we went to ‘round 2’ of the tool with our idea, and from the tool’s focused questions to reach our solution,” explains master student Kronk.

Team Valhalla developed the Valhalla Energy Shares. This business model would be provided to Walqa Technology Park for the purpose of integrating a self-financed strategy for employee inclusion on energy technology in the park. All energy technology owned by Walqa would be assigned a number of shares with values associated to those shares.

For example, they might own 3000 shares of solar photovoltaics and 200 shares of electric vehicle charging stations. The companies in the energy community are then able to sell the shares of the technologies to their employees for the assigned value. These shares are treated like stocks in that they can change in value, be traded, or be sold; all of which would be tracked in an app provided to employees and companies. As certain technologies are utilized, their share value increases. If, over time, energy technologies are not being utilized, the shares would start to decrease in value. This incentivizes employees to purchase the technologies that they believe will be most worthwhile, since it can be seen as an investment when the employees can sell back to the park. These purchases of shares are also a feedback to the park on what technologies they might want to invest into more in the future.

More than an event

“It was a great experience participating in the event. The Business Model Innovator (BMI) tool developed in the project was used for the first time by InnoEnergy students. There were lots of creative ideas put together by the teams, which are immensely valued by the project consortium and shall be used to further guide the pilots to develop their business models. Additionally, this event helped the tool developers to understand how the tool might be used by potential future stakeholders. As a next step, the process of using the tool will be fine-tuned based upon the experience of the students,” says Sanket Puranik (photo), Senior Researcher in Energy Systems at Smart Innovation Norway.

The main reason why Smart Innovation Norway participated at the event was to get an idea on how the company can use such platforms by InnoEnergy to test various innovations from H2020 projects with young talent in sustainability and the renewable energy sector.

“The groups who presented their innovative solutions to the challenge demonstrated a strong ability to think out-of-the-box. This is valuable input to a project that is being carried out over many years by a dedicated consortium of partners. The students brought together their own experience and produced fresh concepts that help the project partners see their challenges from a different perspective,” notes Bryan Pellerin, Senior Researcher in Sustainable Energy at Smart Innovation Norway. He adds:

“This is in line with the exploitation strategy of the project, which routinely exchanges with members of the Stakeholder Innovation Group – a group of experts from outside of the consortium which brings in external insights to the project. This also allows these stakeholders to identify opportunities for exploiting the outcomes beyond the scope of E-LAND. We have invited the innovators from the challenge groups to join the Stakeholder Innovation Group, and we hope to pursue further collaboration with them in the near future!”