Shell GameChanger and Fibersail: de-risking sensor technology for the wind industry
September 15, 2022
Fibersail is preparing to make waves in wind energy efficiency. Through the Shell GameChanger start-up acceleration programme, they are de-risking their sensor technology. Shell GameChanger aims to de-risk unproven early-stage technologies and solutions that support the energy transition. The team provides support, expertise and seed funding while the participating start-ups keep their intellectual property and the independence to make their own decisions.
A technology solution worth de-risking
When Portuguese Olympic sailing coach Pedro Pinto wanted to improve his sailboat performance, he knew that measurements and the shape of the sail were key. This is how Fibersail was born – a company developing shape-sensing sensors to detect early-stage failure modes and improve the performance and efficiency of wind turbines.
It can seem daunting for a small team to engage with a large corporation like Shell but Fibersail was a natural fit for Shell GameChanger. “The entire GameChanger journey is designed to minimise challenges and overcome them together,” says Carlos Oliveira, Fibersail’s executive director. “We were pleasantly surprised by their startup-friendly approach, aiming to take fast decisions while maintaining easy and open discussions.”
Once their start-up was onboarded, the benefits of teaming with Shell quickly became clear. “During the maturation phase, the framing of a detailed, phased project plan really helped us better understand the value propositions that matter,” Oliveira added. “With the help of Shell experts, we have clarified in more detail our technology roadmap.”
However, the process works both ways, explained Yesim Jonsson, commercial partnerships manager at GameChanger. “When you have small start-ups working with large corporations, there are many opportunities to learn from each other and get out of comfort zones. A big part of the reason GameChanger works so well is that it forces us to be nimble and work faster”.
A natural fit
Shell’s team of experts evaluates technologies against four key criteria:
- Novelty: is the technology fundamentally different and unproven?
- Value: could the technology create substantial new value if it works?
- “Why Shell?”: is the technology relevant to Shell and the energy future?
- Testing: can the concept be proven quickly and affordably? Is the right team in place to deliver this?
Fibersail hit all the GameChanger criteria. Wind energy is a crucial component of the energy transition, but wind turbines, especially those offshore, are difficult and expensive to fix. For example, the visiting windows for an offshore wind turbine are few and far between in the storm season. “So the challenge is, how do we best monitor the condition of wind turbines pre-emptively?” says Jonsson. ‘’It is a problem worth solving for Shell and for the industry. Fibersail’s sensor technology flags problems before they occur and drastically reduces downtime caused by turbine failure.”
Collaborating for the energy transition
Since its establishment in 1996, Shell GameChanger has strengthened the company’s open and connected global innovation ecosystem. “The energy transition requires innovative technology solutions that can be scaled up and brought to market quickly, as this is the critical decade for climate change,” says Jonsson. “That’s why we operate a global open innovation strategy and collaborate with our business partners, universities and research institutes, suppliers, and customers. Open innovation helps to ensure a healthy influx of new ideas and speeds the deployment of new technology.”
For Oliveira, there is no doubt that the companies are aligned in the role wind energy plays in reaching a net-zero emissions future: “Their willingness to introduce us to major industry stakeholders both in and outside of Shell really shows how serious Shell is in shaping the future of energy.”
The way forward
One year into the accelerator program, the team has successfully completed simulations and laboratory testing, and is planning to continue its Shell GameChanger journey with large-scale testing to de-risk the technology. If they can prove through the GameChanger programme that Fibersail’s technology works, these sensors could be deployed and adopted widely, further reducing the total cost of wind energy for consumers.
For Fibersail the partnership has been beneficial in many ways: “Although the collaboration has been channelled through GameChanger, the entire process puts us in touch with many areas of the company where we can leverage the experience and broad perspective from diverse business areas,” says Oliveira, “The focus put on both technical needs and commercialisation milestones has been a huge benefit in enhancing Fibersail’s technological readiness level and preparing our market entry.”
Do you have a novel solution that could impact the energy future? Shell GameChanger continuously scouts start-ups to collaborate with. Submit your solution at www.shell.com/gamechanger
To learn more about Fibersail, please check their website.
Shell is a Diamond Sponsor at The Business Booster this year, meet them in Lisbon on 28-29 September 2022.