The Haifa Infralab, the home of startups

Published on Thursday, 30 July 2020

On 25 July 2018, in an abandoned industrial building in the port area, the futuristic Haifa Infralab came into being.

Today, two years on, we can say that expectations have not only been met, but in many ways exceeded. Some of the credit for this success must go to Enel, obviously, for its commitment to harnessing the potential of one of the world’s liveliest and most creative startup ecosystems. But thanks are also due to Shikun&Binui, Israel’s leading construction company and our partner in the project, and the Israeli Innovation Authority (IIA), which supported the project from the very beginning. Most of all, the success is down to the startups that responded with such enthusiasm to our Group’s invitation. It is their participation that gives meaning to our commitment and to initiatives like this that view innovation with an openness that is truly international.

In two years, in fact, more than 600 startups have passed through Infralab, 10 of which have obtained further finance, while three have already moved on to the scale-up phase. Furthermore, we have organised four specific training programmes and carried out five proofs of concept, making an overall investment of 3.2 million dollars.

The technological feature that really sets the Haifa Infralab apart is the Network Digital Twin. This is the virtual replica of the electricity grid that, thanks to the use of data, permits the optimisation of grid management, simulating the grid’s operations in order to conduct analyses, trials and simulations under all possible conditions. The Haifa lab focuses on the work of Enel’s Global Infrastructure&Networks division, as do the ones in Milan and San Paolo, Brazil. We have set up what we would describe as a “network of networks” with which our Group makes a concrete contribution to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 9 (SDG9): “Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation” – one of the cornerstones of the fight against climate change.

To create the digital twin, the Infralab selected three particularly promising projects. These are Pixtier, software that can scan primary cabins, transformers and electricity grids, recreating them in the form of visible data; PDP Tech, which is able to predict the life expectancy and eventual malfunctions of high voltage infrastructure; and IXDen, which monitors anomalies with Internet of Things devices, as well as data tampering.

All the projects confirm the international credentials of the Haifa Lab, which also focuses on the study of numerous different technologies with a global approach to innovation, bringing together startups and investors from various countries. These are involved in augmented and virtual reality, software for 3D modelling, robot prototypes, IoT systems, drones and artificial intelligence. Infralab’s future research fields include areas such as hydrogen-based solutions and storage systems, underground infrastructure for developing the network and real time analysis. In just two years we’ve already achieved much, but we’re only just getting started.

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