Innovation Challenge

Challenge 1: Neural networks in power plants

The company
VERBUND is Austria's leading electricity company and one of Europe's largest hydropower electricity producers. VERBUND Hydro Power operates the group's hydro- and wind power portfolio efficiently and at the same time protects humans, nature and the climate.

The Challenge
VERBUND is seeking out start-ups and innovative companies with solutions for the analysis of telecommunicated measurement data and predicting the performance of dams.
Measurement systems for dams typically constantly monitor and telecommunicate outward parameters which influence the dam performance, such as the water level, air and concrete temperatures, as well as the dam's corresponding reaction or performance. Previous prognosis models for the performance of dams have been limited to few measurement values such as deformations, and are based on the a priori determination of correlations, which are adjusted to the measurement data by means of scaling factors and linear regressions.
The sought-for solutions include independent detection of connections between input data (and their chronological sequence) and measurement data at the dams, such as seepage amounts at fill dams or deformation measurements at concrete dams, and generating prognoses. It should be noted that the respective reactions may be immediate or delayed, as well as either reversible or irreversible.

Solutions which can clearly illustrate the recognised connections, and therefore make a physical interpretation or a comparison with existing physical approaches possible, will be given preference.
VERBUND's goal is to receive the most accurate prognoses possible with low fluctuation margins, so that it is possible to recognise deviations quickly. Through the independent detection of complex connections, prognoses can be made more easily, or applied to further measurement data, and previously used physical models and assumed connections can be reassessed.

Optional extension:
In the event of deviations from the predicted behaviour, it should be recognised as independently as possible which factor or which connection is responsible for the deviation, which would make it easier to identify the causes.
Real data can be made available to participants for working out their solutions – please request it from!

Challenge 2: Sonification of data from the grid

The company
Austrian Power Grid AG (APG), as the control area manager, operates the Austrian transmission grid, which is part of the Regional Group Continental Europe's pan-European transmission grid, belonging to the Association of European Transmission Grid Operators (ENTSO-E).
With a route length of 3,430 kilometres, 6,970 kilometres of cables running along them, and 63 substations and switching systems, the APG grid forms the backbone for the domestic power supply. It ensures a trans-regional exchange of electricity between producers and consumers, both within Austria and internationally, and in this way guarantees a stable supply on the distribution networks.

The Challenge

Austrian Power Grid AG (APG) – a 100% subsidiary of VERBUND – is looking for start-ups and innovative companies with solutions for the sonification of large amounts of data, in particular operating data such as load data for power lines, transformers or other network elements from the extra-high voltage grid.
Because the operation of electrical grids is becoming more and more complex, the amount of information and data and the effort required for data analysis are on the rise. As part of the challenge, possibilities should be worked out for translating large amounts of data into an acoustic form and in this way making them perceptible for the human ear. This could open up completely new dimensions for recognising and analysing various influencing factors, or make short-term and long-term system changes acoustically perceivable.

This innovative method could subsequently become a valuable addition to the classic methods of display and analysis.
Option 1: Demonstrate new possibilities in the area of Predictive Maintenance: Make the load status audible / perceptible.

For example, the load for a / for certain network elements (transformer, cables, etc.) is sonified and then acoustically condensed or stretched out. From this, it could potentially be possible to detect patterns for certain critical states, which would lead to quick identification of the situation or the malfunction pattern when it occurs again. Building on this, new maintenance strategies can be deduced.

Option 2: Making the electricity supply in the power grid over a certain space of time acoustically perceptible for the purpose of effective presentations at trade fairs, tours or lectures. This solution could, for example, be brought in as a demonstration to supplement the existing interactive gaming components in the framework of a tour at the info centre of APG's central control centre.
Participants in the challenge have the liberty to submit solutions for one or both options in the competition.
Real data can be made available to participants for working out their solutions – please request it from!

Challenge 3: Optimising decentralised plants

The company
VERBUND is Austria's leading electricity company and one of Europe's largest hydropower electricity producers. In Austria, VERBUND has a market share of around 7 percent of the small customer segment, and in the industrial segment, the company is in the lead with about 20 percent. Along with its subsidiaries and affiliates, VERBUND is active from electricity generation to transport and on to international trade and distribution.
One of the subsidiaries is VERBUND Solutions, which takes care of special fields of innovation and develops services which are based directly with the client.

The Challenge
Objective: In the topic area of decentralisation, a major motivation for purchase decisions across all customer segments lies in pursuing a high degree of independence from the energy market, pertaining both to the energy itself and to the network. VERBUND is highlighting its positioning as a general solutions provider and supporting this customer wish by means of suitable innovative offerings.

In the private customer segment, prosumers in particular should be addressed, who already have their own production facilities in conjunction with the energy sector. For these customers, hard- and software solutions are being sought which would maximise the proportion of self-produced energy used in one's own household.
In the commercial and industrial sectors, an interruption-free electricity supply is an increasingly important requirement, given the increasing instability in the power grids. Solutions for this problem on the basis of current or future technologies are the focus of interest.

Specific applications:
Maximising own use of the photovoltaic system on a household customer’s roof from an economic point of view
Across-the-board solutions for all trades (algorithms for control, batteries, heating, or also other "virtual" approaches) would be especially interesting.
Evaluation criteria: Acquisition costs or payback period

Small UPS systems (up to 400 kVA) for the business segment
Particularly in established industries, (inflexible) lead-acid batteries are commonly in use at present, which are not suitable for additional applications such as load management etc. The call is for solutions (hard- and software) for the problem area of an interruption-free electricity supply on the basis of flexible technologies (e.g. lithium-ions) which can also cover further fields of application (e.g. load management).


Terms of participation - VERBUND Innovation Challenge 2017

The organiser of the VERBUND Innovation Challenge 2017 ("Innovation Challenge") is VERBUND AG, Am Hof 6a, 1010 Vienna ("VERBUND"), in cooperation with the VERBUND group companies VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH (Europaplatz 2, 1150 Vienna), Austrian Power Grid AG (Wagramer Strasse 19, 1220 Vienna) and VERBUND Solutions GmbH (Europaplatz 2, 1150 Vienna). The Innovation Challenge is a competition for start-ups, SMEs and research institutes, with the aim of a longer-term cooperation between the winners and VERBUND, and VERBUND's use of the award-winning solutions.

By participating in the Innovation Challenge, the participant accepts the given terms of participation, which are also a part of each challenge description.

3.1. Eligible participants are

(1) Individuals or teams of several individuals who are already operating a start-up, SMEs, spinoffs or research institutes
(2) who can at least present a "prototype" which can ideally already be placed on the market as a finished application
(3) and are willing to cooperate with VERBUND in Vienna – meetings, pitching and roll-out of business operations with VERBUND take place in Vienna or based from Vienna.

3.2. In case of doubt, VERBUND will decide at its own discretion whether the criteria are fulfilled or not. There is no legal entitlement to registration or participation in the Innovation Challenge. Active employees of VERBUND and its subsidiaries, as well as their family members, are excluded from participation. Participants who attempt to gain unfair advantage through unauthorised aids or manipulation will be excluded from participation and any contract negotiations will be terminated immediately. Where applicable, the prize can also be subsequently revoked or recalled. Anyone making untruthful statements about their person or company will likewise be disqualified.

VERBUND is offering the winner of each of the three challenges the following prize benefits:

(1) Equity-free prize money in the amount of EUR 8,000.
(2) Inclusion in the VERBUND partner and supplier ecosystem.
(3) Inclusion in VERBUND PR activities.
(4) Conceivable possibility of future shares or an investment.
(5) Participation in the energy2050 conference, incl. travel expenses and accommodation (one person per winning team)

5.1. On the website, under the menu option "Innovation Challenges", VERBUND is announcing three different task formulations ("challenges"), with regard to which VERBUND is interested in a creative solution. Innovative companies which fulfil the participation criteria in item 3 have the opportunity to participate in the Innovation Challenge by devising innovative solution approaches to the challenges and submitting them to VERBUND before the deadline. Participation in the Innovation Challenge requires prior registration by contacting no later than July 12, 2017. Time extensions are at VERBUND's sole discretion.

5.2. The supporting documents submitted by the participants (in particular data in the entry form, business idea incl. enclosures etc.) will be reviewed and the content assessed in an initial evaluation phase by a jury consisting of staff from VERBUND AG, Austrian Power Grid AG, VERBUND Hydro Power GmbH and VERBUND Solutions GmbH. The jury will decide based on its independent convictions and appraisals according to uniform criteria. All involved staff is committed to maintaining confidentiality of the information received in the course of the Innovation Challenge.

5.3. From the submitted registrations, for each of the three challenges the three participants whom the jury has rated highest ("finalists") will be selected to participate in a Pitching Day, which will take place in Vienna on July 21, 2017. As part of this event, the finalists will have the opportunity to present their concepts before VERBUND decision-makers. At the Pitching Day a winner will be selected for each challenge. The three winners and their products will be presented at the VERBUND energy conference energy2050 ("energy conference") in September 2017 in Fuschl am See. The participant agrees that in the event of winning, at least one representative of the company will participate in the energy conference from September 27 to 29, 2017. After the energy conference, options for longer-term cooperation can be evaluated.

6.1. Within the framework of participation in the Innovation Challenge, for certain challenges VERBUND may pass on information, data and documents ("confidential information") to the participants. The participant pledges to keep confidential all confidential information which he or she receives as part of the Innovation Challenge, and at no time directly nor indirectly, wholly nor partially to disclose or publish it or to use it for his or her own interests or those of third parties, except with verifiable prior written consent from VERBUND. The participant is obliged to impose this confidentiality obligation on his or her staff or any other project assistants, and assumes full liability for their compliance with it. This confidentiality obligation continues indefinitely, even after completion of the Innovation Challenge. At VERBUND's order and at any given time, the participant will be obligated to delete received documents/data and destroy any copies that may have been made of them.

6.2. All documents and data submitted by the participants will be handled confidentially by VERBUND and used only to prepare and carry out the Innovation Challenge. No data will be passed on or published without the participant's consent, except the inventory data intended for the public. The participant consents to publication of this inventory data in media reporting (names, photo and brief description of the winners) as well as on the website and on VERBUND's social media channels.

6.3. The participant agrees that the documents, materials and data submitted for participation in the Innovation Challenge may be relayed to the jury, and that the jury may process them exclusively within the framework and for the purpose of the Innovation Challenge. This consent may be revoked at any time by e-mail to Revoking consent will result in exclusion from participation.

7.1. VERBUND and its collaborating group companies exclude any liability for damages which may arise through staff, assistants or third parties, to the extent permitted by law. In particular, VERBUND and its collaborating group companies exclude any liability – to the extent permitted by law – for the correctness of statements made by staff, assistants and other participants in the Innovation Challenge.

7.2. The organiser does not guarantee the continuous availability and functionality of the website for registration for the Innovation Challenge. On the contrary, the website may for various, in particular external reasons be terminated or temporarily taken off the network, without creating any entitlements of the participants towards the organiser. VERBUND assumes no liability for technical problems which impede the process of the Innovation Challenge or hinder or even prevent participation in it.

8.1. VERBUND and the participant commit themselves to fair business practices and reject any form of corruption and bribery. Based on this shared understanding, they commit themselves to strict adherence to their respective internal compliance provisions and the legal anti-corruption regulations. VERBUND and the participant and their staff accordingly commit themselves, in connection with the Innovation Challenge, in particular not to offer, promise or grant any undue advantages of any kind, nor to demand, receive pledges for or accept such.

8.2. Moreover, VERBUND and the participant confirm that the Innovation Challenge is transacted exclusively within the framework of their business operations.

9.1. The participant him- or herself is responsible for any costs that arise as part of the Innovation Challenge. The participant is not entitled to remuneration for creating concepts or rendering other services which are taken on for the purpose of participation in the Innovation Challenge. The participant may terminate his or her participation at any time. There is no entitlement to return of the submitted documents and materials.

9.2. On the part of VERBUND, no pledges of any kind are made regarding benefits, funding or feasibility. In particular, VERBUND does not guarantee that contract negotiations initiated due to the Innovation Challenge will actually lead to conclusion of a contract. The possibility exists, and the participants expressly take note, that research and development and other activities of the participants and VERBUND overlap thematically. This does not result in any entitlements for the participants.

9.3. All legal relationships linked with these terms of participation are exclusively subject to Austrian law without possibility of recourse to the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods or the reference norms for international private law. The exclusive place of jurisdiction is the competent court in Vienna, Inner City. The organiser's decision is final.

9.4. VERBUND expressly reserves the right to make subsequent unilateral additions or alterations to these terms of participation and/or procedures. Due notice will be given of changes and they will be published on the website under the menu item Innovation Challenges. Moreover, VERBUND reserves the right to terminate the Innovation Challenge at any time without prior notice, if proper completion cannot be guaranteed for technical or legal reasons. There is no legal right to demand a final round and/or designation of a winner.

9.5. Should any provision in the terms of participation be or become invalid or impracticable, the validity of the remaining provisions remain unaffected. It will be replaced by an appropriate provision which corresponds as closely as possible to the purpose of the invalid or impracticable provision.