Ideas are essential for the creation and evolution of innovation, but what’s even more important is the opportunity to develop them. At Enel, this is one of our core beliefs and the reason behind the launch of our new Catania ‘Innovation Hub&Lab’. Our 100,000 square metre technology complex, which is equipped with a sophisticated laboratory and high-tech testing facilities, was inaugurated on July 13th and is ready to host startups, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and other companies from both Italy and abroad. Prominent guests at the launch event included the Mayor of Catania, Salvo Pogliese, Antonio Cammisecra, CEO of Enel Green Power (EGP), and Ernesto Ciorra, Chief of Innovability Officer .
Why unify a Hub and a Lab? Our Catania Innovation Hub Manager Antonio Biondi explains that this formula means that “the value chain, from the selection to the execution, can be integrated in one physical place.” EGP’s Head of Innovation and Sustainability, Giovanni Tula, adds that merging the two sites offers a unique advantage when it comes to expediting the development of new solutions: “The Hub scouts, finds and helps the startups to grow, and then at the Lab they can immediately test their ideas and see whether they work.”
Technology is all around
Our Lab is a high tech centre, where we promote advances in digital technologies such as IoT, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality to advance research and innovation for the energy sector. An artificial aging laboratory, a radiometric weather station and a wind laboratory are just a few examples of the testing facilities that can be found there. Biondi says: “New technologies related to the site, such as indoor and outdoor navigation and Li-Fi communication, are being implemented.” Currently, there are several projects being developed at the Hub&Lab in Catania, and they primarily focus on the “development of drones and robots to support the maintenance, cleaning and inspection of solar power plants,” Biondi adds.
The Catania Hub is part of our global network of Innovation Hubs. The history of this site in the Etna Valley began in the 1980s, and it has evolved a great deal since then. “In such a big lab, we can test new technologies that can come from startups and we can implement those technologies… We even have a photovoltaic plant, as well as the 3SUN Factory. Everything that we need to think, develop, test, improve and industrialise in the renewable energy sector is here in Catania,” says Ciorra.
A network of opportunity
The Hub & Lab at Catania offers startups and potential partners the opportunity to develop solutions in the field of renewable energy. Participants who wish to collaborate with the Catania Hub & Lab or any of Enel’s Innovation Hubs are encouraged to submit their technology and solutions to open calls that are announced on our crowdsourcing platform. The Enel network also engages in direct scouting activities both in Italy and abroad.
“Last year, at the start of the Enel Innovation Lab in Catania, we launched a call on innovating renewable energy. We had more than 200 applicants, we selected 33 projects, and four of them are going to start in the next few days directly in this Hub & Lab,” Fabio Tentori, Head of Enel Innovation Hubs, says. The startups and SMEs are selected on the basis of three factors: technological potential, strategic conformity and the quality of the team.
It’s an exciting time to be a part of this new chapter in the history of the Catania area. How will you contribute?