Empowering the Future of Energy: Highlights of the I-NERGY Open Calls

Anticipated advancements of AI within the energy sector are poised to profoundly transform the entire energy value chain in the coming years. This transformation will be characterized by enhanced business process performance, heightened environmental sustainability, improved social relationships, and the proliferation of significant social benefits to citizens. However, the full realization of these potential benefits is currently impeded by certain challenges. These obstacles include uncertain business cases, fragmented regulations, immature standards, and barriers posed by the limited technical skills of SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) in their workforce.

To help overcome these challenges, I-NERGY strategically paired experts from the project consortium partners with the SMEs beneficiaries of the open calls, to address their energy-related issues and overcome the obstacles together.

The inaugural I-NERGY open call took place from 8th November 2021 to 20th January 2022 and garnered an impressive response, with 126 submitted and 403 started applications pouring in from 27 countries. The leading countries in terms of application submissions were Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, and Portugal.

The primary aim of this open call was to invite SMEs, including startups, to create building blocks and applications for novel AI algorithms and services, as well as conduct small-scale experiments (Prototypes). The objective was to address the development and implementation of technology and systems that could be applied to specific cross-sectorial Challenges within the Energy sector. This initiative aimed to enrich the AI resources and tools catalogue for Energy on Europe's AI-on-demand platform AI4EU.

As a result of the first I-NERGY open call, the top 10 selected applications were awarded up to €50,000 each to develop their innovative solutions. Additionally, these winners gained entry into a 6-month Tech Transfer Programme, facilitating the practical application and dissemination of their AI solutions in the energy domain.

These champions implemented solutions such as developing Artificial Intelligence models to constantly monitor the health status of assets within the distribution network, combined AI platform and data from real-world operations to model the remaining useful life (RUL) of Pelton turbines based on real-world operational and environmental data and developed the first platform tailored for modeling distributed energy resources, as well as many others.

The second project's open call took place from October 10 to December 12, 2022, and saw a remarkable response, with 333 applications initiated and 80 applications submitted from 26 diverse countries. The countries with the highest number of applications were Spain, Italy, Greece, Latvia, and France. This open call sought to identify a consortium comprising a technology service provider/developer with SME status and an infrastructure provider/data owner, both willing to collaboratively implement an innovative energy solution and develop new services on existing technologies (MVPs).

Following the conclusion of the open call, the 15 most promising proposals were selected and invited to participate in a 9-month Tech Transfer Programme. As recognition for their outstanding ideas, these chosen participants received funding of up to €100,000 to support the development of their proposed solutions.

At the I-NERGY 2nd Technology Transfer Programme, our champions are providing solutions such as utilizing Reinforcement Learning (RL) techniques to train an agent that provides energy efficiency recommendations for specific facility assets, e.g. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and boilers, study, test and eventually adopt a series of AI-based gamification tools and a brand-new mobile app, overcome the limited accuracy of the meteorological models already in use in predicting wind speed and direction by enhancing their output data through AI and others.

The resounding success of both open calls can be attributed to weeks of dedicated online dissemination, engaging webinars, and informative info days.

The project's achievements in attracting a wealth of outstanding applications can be traced back to the strategic efforts put into online dissemination. Over the course of several months, the project team partners worked tirelessly to spread the word far and wide, leveraging digital platforms to reach potential participants across diverse backgrounds and regions.

Throughout the I-NERGY program, a strong emphasis was placed on fostering international collaboration, aiming to bring together expertise and knowledge from various countries to drive advancements in the energy sector.

By partnering with energy innovators from across the globe, I-NERGY has fostered a dynamic exchange of ideas, technologies, and best practices. This global approach has resulted in the cross-pollination of knowledge, ultimately accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy future on a global scale.