– Technologies are a response to the challenges of energy transformation. However, scaling up technological solutions in the energy sector requires very high financial outlays – points out Małgorzata Piasecka, President of PGNiG Ventures. The gas company places a strong emphasis on research, development and innovation, allocating hundreds of millions of zlotys to them every year. Through its investment fund, it also finances innovative companies likely to transform the energy sector. Among the most promising areas are, among others, energy efficiency in a broad sense, technologies related to the industrial Internet of Things and the monitoring of energy infrastructures.
PGNiG is looking for start-ups
– We are looking for solutions that will realistically contribute to the development and increase of competitiveness energy sector companiesd. We want the solutions in which to invest to be used by the companies of the PGNiG group, which is why we strive to ensure that they meet the needs of the organization, says Małgorzata Piasecka, Newseria Biznes agency. – We have been evolving for more than two years in a constantly changing environment and we must keep in mind that the needs of companies are also changing. At the same time, we are witnessing a very dynamic development of technology, so we have to be flexible and take this into account in the investment strategy implemented.
– We are aware that there are a lot of innovations, interesting ideas, products and services. Therefore, as PGNiG, we are open to the market environment and partnerships in R&D and innovation, including on cooperation with start-ups and universities. In 2021, we committed more than PLN 330 million to research and development projects. Together with our partners, we also develop technologies at the stage of prototypes or pilot installations – says Arkadiusz Sekściński, Vice President of Development at PGNiG. – We have created this type of facility, among others in collaboration with the University of Life Sciences in Poznań, where biomethane is produced from food waste.
As Arkadiusz Sekściński points out, biomethane, like carbon-free gasit may be important part of the energy transformation in Poland. However, there are more prospective areas, another is energy storage whose role will be needed in connection with the transformation of the economy and the development of renewable energies.
– It will play an important role in storage as an energy carrier hydrogen. This is why PGNiG has been running the Hydrogen program since 2020, in which we implement e.g. projects related to large-scale hydrogen storage in salt caverns. They are currently used to collect natural gas. Owner of more than 20 caverns of this type, PGNiG wishes to put its knowledge and experience in hydrogen storage to good use. We believe that, for example, the location of hydrogen caverns in Pomerania would be beneficial in the context of the possibility of cooperation with wind farms in the Baltic Sea, explains the vice president of development of PGNiG.
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Start-ups with which PGNiG has established cooperation
The PGNiG group attaches great importance to R&D and innovation, regularly allocating hundreds of millions of zlotys to it every year. For several years, InnVento has been operating within the group – an accelerator for start-ups working on new solutions for the oil and energy sector. This is a complementary initiative to PGNiG Ventures – a fund investing after the acceleration phase.
– Young companies that offer solutions that meet the current needs of the PGNiG Group can cooperate with us, verify their product or service and, at the next stage, obtain funding for further development – says Arkadiusz Sekściński. – So far, the PGNiG Ventures fund has invested in entities such as ICsec, a producer of cybersecurity solutions, and Enelion – a producer of chargers for electric cars.
The first of these companies is a Polish producer of systems that increase the level of cybersecurity in industrial facilities, especially in critical infrastructure. In turn, Enelion offers complete solutions for electromobility, in addition to car chargers, it is also an IT system for managing these chargers and processing payments.
– In 2023, the company will launch a fast charger on the market, and in the next stage – a charger allowing the exchange of electricity between electric cars, energy storage and the user’s local electricity grid. Later this year, the company will also offer a system for managing distributed energy sources in the home, the full version of this solution will appear in 2023 – says Małgorzata Piasecka.
One of the latest investments in the PGNiG Ventures portfolio is also the technology company Reliability Solutions, which offers an artificial intelligence-based solution for fault prediction and production process optimization. Its solutions are already successfully implemented in large industrial installations.
– Before the company was included in our portfolio, it was tested in a pilot program at PGNiG Termika, providing specific business benefits, reducing costs and increasing the level of security – explains Małgorzata Piasecka.
At Elektrociepłownia Żerań, which is owned by the company, models have been implemented to predict potential failures in the operation of the gas boiler.
– Regarding the further development of our technology, we will, among other things, develop a new product that was created in cooperation with PGNiG. It is the RSIMS applications that allow you to implement predictive maintenance in a simple and pleasant way, without the need for historical data – explains Piotr Lipnicki, president of Reliability Solutions.
Which start-ups are looking for PGNiG?
PGNiG Ventures invests in developing or expanding small and medium-sized companies that have been in the market for less than seven years. The maximum amount of financing that can be obtained by a company is 15 million PLN in two investment rounds (from 2 to 8 million PLN in the first round).
The development of start-ups and the impact of innovation on the energy sector and the most important technologies that will change this industry in the next 10 years were the main topics of the meeting “Energy of the future” hosted by PGNiG and PGNiG Ventures last week. In addition to panel discussions, young innovative companies developing such technologies had the opportunity to network and meet industry experts and fund portfolio companies.
– We wanted to show what development opportunities are offered to young technology start-ups by the PGNiG Group, and to experts – what benefits they can count on by working with these companies and using the solutions they have developed. By taking such steps, we strive to ensure that the companies we invest in can count on pilot programs, and in the future, perhaps even full implementation in the companies of the PGNiG group – says the president of PGNiG Ventures.