Completing a process of research and evaluation of innovative solutions launched in November 2020, which has collected more than 60 applications also from abroad, Italgas and I3P presented the winning projects of the Ideas 4 Italgas initiative during an event organized by the national newspaper La Stampa on the theme of synergy between large companies, universities and startups.
The conference "Open Innovation: university and companies to give ideas a future", broadcast live on the La Stampa website in the afternoon of April 14, was attended by prominent guests: Massimo Giannini, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and Marco Zatterin, deputy editor; Paolo Gallo, CEO of Italgas; Guido Saracco, Rector of the Polytechnic University of Turin; Silvia Candiani, Country Manager of Microsoft Italy; Antonio Palmieri, Member of Parliament and member of the Innovation Intergroup; Giuseppe Scellato, President of I3P. The debate focused on the opportunities offered by technological innovation, on the role of digitization in economic processes and, in particular, on the transition in the energy sector: an area in which Italgas is investing over 2 billion euros to become the first utility company in the world with a fully digitized gas network.
The Ideas 4 Italgas call was part of this context of digital transformation, with its Open Innovation approach in identifying cutting-edge projects in the areas of interest - energy efficiency, car fleet management and staff mobility, network infrastructure monitoring, traditional and emerging energy carriers - and then implementing them in Italgas' operational activities, starting from an initial Proof of Concept. The three startups that have successfully passed the selection steps are named Composite Research (CoRe), i-TES and StoreH.
The young company CoRe has developed and patented a proprietary technology, MadFlex, which is able to repair pipes quickly, durably and resiliently thanks to its ultralight material, which boasts mechanical properties unique in the world. "We would like to help this startup," Italgas' CEO said during the event, "to further develop its product so that it can be certified and used in our industry, in the gas distribution sector." The president of I3P said that "we were particularly convinced by this project's intellectual property management strategy and the product's high potential for scalability."
Founded in December 2016, i-TES is an innovative startup that deals with energy efficiency in industrial and residential areas: its research team has devised a new type of thermal battery, based on patented technology, that offers a more efficient way to store, manage and use the energy produced by all heat sources, obtaining a safer and more reliable thermoregulation. "Thanks to the Ideas 4 Italgas contest," commented Michele Santovito, CEO of i-TES, "we will have the opportunity to install our device at the Italgas cabin, with the aim of reducing self-consumption by prioritizing the use of renewable sources."
StoreH is focused on developing an innovative system of energy storage and on-demand hydrogen production through its HOD device, to solve the current problem of intermittency of renewable-fueled plants. In Scellato's words, "the project intercepts an emerging technological trajectory, that of hydrogen, and has already reached a very advanced prototype phase. We have greatly appreciated the ability to go, in a relatively short period of time, from a good idea to a first prototype to be tested in the field: it is a sign of an excellent entrepreneurial attitude in the process of technology transfer".
The success of the call has further confirmed the validity of the road of Open Innovation and synergy in the development of the brightest ideas into business opportunities. "Italgas has placed innovation at the center of its plans," confirmed Gallo: "A path that involves the entire company: networks, for a 100% digital network, processes and, above all, people, through the development of their digital skills." At the end of the event, when asked by Zatterin what should be the next step for sustainable progress in the sector, Scellato hoped for more opportunities for collaboration and support among the players in the technology ecosystem: "Those who, like us, deal on a daily basis with supporting the birth and development of innovative startups, know very well that most of these entrepreneurial projects are B2B in nature, i.e. they work within reference industrial supply chains. For their growth and for the transformation of ideas into products, a robust and qualified demand for innovation at a national level is needed. The bet on the future is to continue to build cases of excellence, like the one with Italgas, to create links between startups and large and medium-sized companies".