• Collaboration between ABB and Startup Challenge winner Pratexo, edge innovation platform to develop solutions for grid operators that reduce costs and improve decision-making in the digital transformation of the energy industry
  • Pratexo’s winning proof-of-concept in the Distribution Solutions category, alongside category winners for Smart Building, MOOST and Smart Power, i-EM, secured each $30K collaboration projects with ABB Electrification
  • ABB Electrification Startup Challenge 2022 received over 100 applications from 34 countries to compete for three prizes and longer-term opportunities to work with ABB, SynerLeap and Microsoft

Earlier this year Pratexo won ABB’s Startup Challenge competition, run annually in collaboration with Microsoft and ABB’s accelerator SynerLeap. Pratexo, MOOST and i-EM each secured a prize after ABB Electrification Startup Challenge received over 100 applications, 20 were shortlisted and 9 progressed to the final in Berlin, pitching digital solutions that save energy, reduce emissions and increase climate resilience.

In Q&A with Conviction earlier this year, Anton Kotov, Chief Digital & Strategy Officer at ABB told us how the Startup Challenge finds the next generation of digital innovators to accelerate the energy transition. For more on the winners, check out Conviction’s Q&A with Pratexo, as well as MOOST and i-EM.

Subscribe for free and read on for a case study in digital innovation from ABB, including comments from ABB’s President of Electrification Distribution Solutions Alessandro Palin, fresh insights from Anton Kotov and an update from Blaine Mathieu, CEO of Pratexo on the experience so far.

Energy sector’s digital mavericks

Data-driven solutions for better decision-making  

Left to right: Ciro Lanzetta and Emilio Simeone from i-EM; Blaine Mathieu and Mats Olsson from Pratexo; and Lucas Senn and Joel Samsinger from MOOST. Image Credit: ABB

With more and more renewable energy flowing into the distribution grid from installations such as wind and solar farms, the grid’s operational complexity has increased significantly. These renewable sources generally require a higher degree of flexibility from the network to compensate for their intermittency. If utility providers cannot achieve this and there is a grid outage, downtime can have a significant financial and human impact.

As the energy crisis intensifies, and governments push ahead with plans to reduce emissions and safeguard critical services, the quantity of renewable energy installations is only set to increase, making it more important than ever for operators to be able to quickly analyse and correct faults in increasingly complex power networks and ensure they perform to their maximum potential.

This is one of many challenges the energy sector faces as it moves towards Net Zero, a target many countries have committed to reach by 2050. But none of them can be addressed by one company alone, which is why electrification leader ABB created its annual Electrification Startup Challenge.

Now in its third year, the competition aims to show that collaboration between large organisations and more agile tech startups is the only way to tackle the energy sector’s most pressing issues and generate a widespread shift in the way all industries generate, distribute and consume energy.

Anton Kotov, ABB Electrification:

“Open innovation and discovery are key to tackling some of the unprecedented issues the energy sector is facing. It is only by collaborating with some of the brightest mavericks in the world that we will develop solutions to solve the world’s energy and climate challenges.”
Anton Kotov, Chief Digital and Strategy Officer at ABB Electrification. Image Credit: ABB
ABB’s Startup Challenge category Distribution Solutions was taken home by Pratexo, an edge-computing startup headquartered in Austin, Texas that recently closed an $8 million seed funding round. ABB’s Distribution Solutions category sought digital startups to pitch proof-of-concept projects that provide critical services, hospitals, utilities and data centres solutions to mitigate increasing complexity and rising demand for electricity. Pratexo’s edge computing for intelligent grid optimisation can rapidly deploy systems to process large volumes of data and run advanced analytics in real time. ABB and Pratexo will co-develop the platform for ABB’s customers to improve decision-making in their operations.

Edge innovation

Facilitating better decisions in future operations

Image credit: Pratexo

This year’s Distribution Solutions Challenge had a clear winner: edge innovation platform Pratexo, which launched in 2019 and recently closed an $8 million seed round. Pratexo’s technology uses edge computing for intelligent grid optimisation, which helps distribution grid operators and associated service providers handle and analyse the enormous quantities of digital data being produced at remote renewable energy installations, allowing them to reduce the number of costly system failures.

Today, the manual process of analysing faults and system failures is complex, cumbersome and time-consuming, resulting in delays and loss of production, which operators cannot afford. Pratexo’s technology can be used to rapidly develop a root cause analysis engine, helping operators to make better decisions about their future operations.

CEO of Pratexo Blaine Mathieu:

“Our systems are often involved in increasing machine efficiency and uptime, meeting sustainability goals, and improving human safety. In this case we are focused on reducing outage times; increasing energy efficiency; power balancing; higher power quality; and lowering materials, repair, operation (MRO) costs in the electric grid.”

More and more, ABB customers are requesting predictive maintenance technology.

Alessandro Palin, ABB:

“Utility providers want to know if there is a part of their network which could be potentially at risk because components are reaching the end of their lifespan. At the same time, distributors are also being challenged by regulatory authorities on the quality of their supply. It can become very costly, both financially and reputationally, if a fault prevents them from delivering energy. Predictive maintenance technology is key to optimising interventions and saving money.”

Lasting business relationships

‘Access to new ideas and ways of thinking’

Image credit: ABB

ABB says the collaboration with Pratexo demonstrates the value of partnerships between established businesses and startups. In a recent Q&A with Conviction, ABB explained the Startup Challenge unlocks disruptive thinking, fosters collaboration and accelerates innovation.

Anton Kotov, ABB:

“The ABB Electrification Startup Challenge is about creating a pipeline of innovative digital solutions that help our customers to become more sustainable by reducing emissions, cutting energy usage and integrating with renewable energy sources. Collaborating with startups gives us just that - access to new ideas and ways of thinking.”

From ABB’s perspective, Pratexo’s initial solution in the Challenge addressed all aspects of the problem statement presented - analyse faults in power distribution systems. “They went above and beyond to build an actual demo to verify their simulations and crunch the actual data files we sent over,” said ABB jury member Max Cenni. Pratexo was able to provide detailed analyses and insights for two scenarios in a steel plant and a power plant, demonstrating the real potential of their winning solution.

Image credit: Pratexo 

Shortly after winning, Pratexo CEO Blaine Mathieu said in a Q&A with Conviction ABB boosts brand credibility and deepens industry connections. Pratexo aspires to become a leader in the digital transformation of the energy industry and the potential for collaboration to accelerate the startup’s growth is one way everyone wins.

Blaine Mathieu, Pratexo:

“The chance to work with ABB on an innovation project was simply too good to pass up. ABB has been highly organised and professional and, at the same time, very friendly and collaborative. Winning was important to Pratexo but, more importantly, our main priority was to build a lasting business relationship with ABB. Pratexo is now on the way to becoming a major player in the digital transformation of the energy industry, and of industrial systems more widely.”

ABB Electrification and Pratexo are working together to develop the concept into a minimum viable product. The platform will provide automated analysis for pre-defined and widely occurring fault scenarios which will be deployed first in a pilot with a select group of customers. Eventually, the ABB Ability branded solution is expected to be launched as a part of ABB’s expert services and further expanded to cover more complex system operational scenarios.

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