“Contamination with the outside ecosystem and the constant search for new stimuli and skills enrich us. They provide valuable support to grow the industry’s supply chain. We are proud of having created a centre of excellence in Italy, and especially here in the South, for start-ups, small and medium enterprises and researchers from around the world to innovate with us and each other and make energy less expensive and more sustainable, for us and our children.”
Technological innovation for electricity
The ten hectares of the Innovation Hub & Lab are a concentration of technology and innovation, in the structure and laboratories, where we work on testing for the solar field and on disruptive solutions in the energy field, with particular attention to the new digital frontier.
There, we study how technologies like the IoT (internet of things), Big data, automation, artificial intelligence and augmented reality can be used in the production of renewable energy, continuing on the path of innovation that EGP follows around the world.
“Research and innovation are at the centre of our industrial development model, based on sustainability, and are a fundamental ingredient to strengthen our leadership in the renewables sector worldwide. The laboratories in Catania will be a point of reference for the experimentation of innovative technological solutions that can then be exported around the world, contributing to the education, employment and economy of local areas.”
Start-ups and SMEs can access the Innovation Hub & Lab by participating in specific calls published on Enel’s crowdsourcing platform, or by taking part in events where Enel gives space to innovative ideas.
At that point, the selection phase begins, during which start-ups are evaluated under three different aspects, key to fully understanding their idea and its potential. The first criterion is technological potential, which evaluates the originality of the technology and the business model proposed. The second step is strategic alignment, which gives precedence to projects that have potential synergy with Enel’s strategy. The third and final criterion is the quality of the working team and their technical and entrepreneurial experience.
Following this stage, the most promising ones – whether local, national or international – can test their solutions at the Innovation Hub & Lab directly, where they are joined by Enel’s specialised personnel and can make use of the laboratories of the Centre, testing innovative technologies for renewable sources especially, like thermal and photovoltaic solar, microgrid, storage and wind, with indoor and outdoor testing.
The Catania site offers a one-of-a-kind collection of know-how, expertise, data, mentorship and support in the search for capital, and is also synergistically integrated with the Innovation Hub’s network created by Enel in the areas with the greatest levels of innovation in the world (Madrid, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Tel Aviv, San Francisco).
The Tradition of Innovation
The new Catania Innovation Hub & Lab is the latest evolution of a research centre that has always made innovation its main mission.
Founded in the 1980s, with the name Phoebus and as an experimental laboratory for solar panels, over the years the Catania site has progressively evolved, adapting to new technologies arriving on the market and starting to host the first start-ups.
For example, the company Ultrasolar Technologies from California’s Silicon Valley, that just over two years ago started a collaboration with EGP at the Innovation Lab, developing together an innovative electronic device that increase energy production in solar panels.
Once the technology was experimented and refined, the company managed to raise funds in the United States for a further 12 million euro. Over just a few years, the company has grown and is now worth tens of millions of dollars.
The company has recently expressed interest in opening a new location in Sicily, to be able to work with local companies directly: it’s the start of Energy Valley.
“We started with a laboratory prototype and, working hand in hand in Open Innovation mode, we implemented specific measures in the development phase. We also engineered and tested the quantum boost, a small, easily integrated device in each photovoltaic module. The product is unique on the global market and even in its simplicity it uses complex principles at the base of photoelectric conversion. We had to work long and hard on optimisation and experimentation to figure out what the best application was in such a competitive market as photovoltaic; we had plenty of moments of discouragement but in the end, what we have now is something amazingly unique and innovative.”
Forty years since its inauguration, the Innovation Hub & Lab continues to be a hotbed of sustainability and innovation, following the path of the “green” revolution in renewable energy that’s changing today’s world and forging tomorrow’s.