Nokia Open Innovation Challenge

Selected start-ups working on solutions for the future of industrial automation are eligible to collaborate with Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs experts can  receive up to USD175,000 in financial support to help grow their businesses.

Technology start-ups with innovative and disruptive solutions for the emerging industrial automation era are invited to compete in this year’s Nokia Open Innovation Challenge (NOIC). Winners of this global competition will be provided with up to USD175k in financial assistance, and will have the opportunity to collaborate with experts from Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs to help grow their businesses by unleashing new levels of productivity for the industrial and public sectors.

This year’s NOIC specifically seeks out start-ups with disruptive ideas in industrial automation categories such as multi-robot collaboration, VR/AR driven human augmentation for industrial and enterprise use cases, digital personal assistants in enterprises, human machine / machine human communication technologies, edge computing, and artificial intelligence and related technologies.

NOIC Competition

Marcus Weldon, President of Nokia Bell Labs and Corporate CTO of Nokia, commented: “We believe that in the coming fourth industrial revolution, a convergence of operations technology (OT) and information and communication technology (ICT) will be the catalyst for wide scale automation in all industries and infrastructure – and our physical world as a whole. This will usher in a new era of productivity for many sectors of the economy. As we roll out end-to-end 5G around the world to deliver high performance local and wide area connectivity services, we are excited to connect with innovative start-ups, to allow them to come and collaborate with our experts, and for us to be able to support them to help grow their businesses and shape the future of industrial automation.”

The NOIC competition is organized in partnership with NGP Capital, a global venture capital firm, backed by Nokia.  NGP Capital has 14 years of expertise in evaluating, investing, and accelerating promising growth-stage companies from all around the world.

Bo Ilsoe, a partner at NGP Capital, commented: “We have met thousands of founders, invested in over 90 companies, and helped several all the way into outcomes like an IPO or merger/acquisition. In this NOIC competition, we will pay attention to great founding teams, who can demonstrate their deep domain expertise and prove they have the abilities to scale their business globally.”

Last year’s winner

The annual NOIC event offers the opportunity for pioneering start-up companies to showcase best-in-class products and solutions within the Industrial Automation domain. This year marks the seventh year of this global competition; the winner of the last similar competition was Spark Microsystems, a Montreal-based business that manufactures low power wireless transceiver chipsets designed for the Internet of Things (IoT).

For Spark Microsystems, CEO Fares Mubarak added: “We were honoured to win the NOIC 2018 competition amongst a stellar group of innovative companies. This recognition provided credible validation of our innovation from a technology leader and pioneer in our field, and had a significant positive impact on our employees, partners, customers and investors. We have already identified multiple collaboration opportunities within Nokia, with the help of the NOIC team, which is very timely as we are within a year of full production. We strongly encourage all start-ups to apply to NOIC, and expose their innovation ideas on one of technology’s highest stages.”

How to apply

Start-up businesses that want to enter need to submit their entries by June 30, 2019.  The NOIC competition’s website contains the complete rules and guidelines. Finalists will be brought to a mentoring event this autumn at Nokia Bell Labs in Murray Hill (NJ), where they will meet with leading innovators in Nokia and have access to lab resources to help refine the pitch for their innovations.

The selected finalists will then present their proposals to an international jury at an event located at Nokia’s global headquarters in Espoo, Finland. The selection jury will be chaired by Marcus Weldon and include business and technology leaders from across Nokia, Nokia Bell Labs and NGP Capital.

Yokogawa Invests in Microalgae Biotech

Yokogawa has invested in a partnership with AlgaEnergy, a Spanish biotechnology company specialising in the production and commercial applications of microalgae. Their strategic agreement involves an approximately 10 million euro investment by Yokogawa to acquire newly issued shares of AlgaEnergy, making the Japanese company a reference shareholder.

Microalgae are a diverse group of unicellular photosynthetic micro-organisms that can thrive in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers. Their rapid rate of reproduction means they can be utilised effectively as a biological resource. They are recognised as having great potential to contribute to a more sustainable society through applications in diverse sectors ranging from agriculture, food, and animal feed through to pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, biomaterials and, in the future, sustainable biofuels.

AlgaEnergy has been a pioneer in the microalgae biotechnology field since 2007. It is currently operating a commercial production facility in the south of Spain, and, in late 2015, launched the world’s first line-up of microalgae-based biostimulant products to promote efficient crop cultivation. Biostimulants are micro-organisms whose function when applied to plants or the surrounding soil is to stimulate natural processes to enhance nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, and crop quality.

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The AlgaEnergy microalgae production plant in Cadiz

The entry of Yokogawa as a shareholder will enable AlgaEnergy to reinforce its position of international leadership, with the equity investment being used to fund a set of ambitious projects, including international expansion of its biostimulant product sales organisation, entry into new sectors such as food and cosmetics, and development of its promising product pipeline.

Future Intentions:

The scope of this agreement extends beyond just financial investment. The two companies, which share strong synergies and a common vision, seek to build an industry-leading partnership in the microalgae biotechnology sector worldwide by collaborating in the areas of R&D, manufacturing, marketing, and sales. AlgaEnergy will leverage its broad knowledge and experience in the microalgae biological processes, accumulated throughout more than four decades of R&D by its scientific leader, the world-renowned microbiologist Professor Miguel Garcia Guerrero of the University of Seville. Yokogawa will provide the advanced technologies and knowhow related to automation of industrial processes that will be key to maximising quality and efficiency as production volumes increase.

Augusto Rodríguez-Villa, AlgaEnergy’s president, highlighted that, “This agreement is the best possible partnership in the journey to achieve our mission to leverage the potential of microalgae worldwide. We share the same vision for the future, the belief that more sustainable development is possible and that microalgae can be a key contributor towards that objective.”

Tsuyoshi Abe, senior vice president and head of the Marketing Headquarters at Yokogawa, added, “Yokogawa aims to contribute directly to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through its core business activities, and this year we established a new ‘Life Innovation’ business unit in line with that. This is our first serious foray into clean technology in the bioeconomy, which was recently added as a new focus area in our long-term business framework, so we have high expectations for this exciting strategic partnership.”

About AlgaEnergy

AlgaEnergy is a biotechnology company specialised in the science of microalgae. The company consolidates over four decades of state-of-the-art knowledge related to microalgae, generated by the main specialised universities, and has invested heavily in applied R&D, positioning itself as the main international reference in this field. AlgaEnergy’s mission is to develop and commercialise innovative, high-quality products derived from microalgae, targeting specific needs in different industries.

30 years on, and Chernobyl is covered

There are many old physicists who would remember the day of the Chernobyl accident back in 1986. I remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, when driving home and hearing that the radiation detectors on the Swedish (or maybe Finnish?) nuclear reactor power stations had gone into alarm, because of the incoming radiation fall-out detected.

Then there were the radio-active reindeer, after eating the moss on rocks in Scandinavia, and worse still, Welsh lamb with green dye marks to indicate ‘unfit for human consumption’. Working on a lot of development projects for sensors to be used in the BNFL Sellafield site, it was interesting to see how sheep with green dye marks seemed to be collected and placed in the fields near that site…… nothing if not a subtle comment by the local farmers.

European Reconstruction

The latest news this last month was that the “Chernobyl Arch”, a containment structure designed to enclose the damaged reactor and upgrade the site finally into an environmentally safe and secure state, was moved into position in November. The structure was built on site as part of an international programme, led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and moved to its final position along a 327 meter track, to cover the previous makeshift shelter placed over the exposed core soon after 1986. No mean feat with a weight of 36,000 tonnes. A video of the move and installation is visible on http://www.ebrd.com/news/video/timelapse-video-of-chernobyl-arch-sliding.html

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The constructors

EBRD advise that the structure was built by Novarka, a consortium of the French construction firms VINCI Construction and Bouygues Construction. Work started in 2010, and the cost was Euro 1.5Bn. The arch itself is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built, with a span of 257 metres, length of 162 metres, height of 108 metres. With the sealed installation due for completion by November 2017, it will make the accident site safe, with a lifetime of 100 years; allow for the eventual dismantling of the makeshift Russian built 1986 shelter, and allow the management of the radioactive waste inside. (All assuming no local conflicts blow the place up!)

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EBRD manages the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, and is the major contributor to the Euro 2.1Bn programme: more than Euro 1.5 billion has been contributed from 45 donors to date. This is presumably a good example of International and European co-operation and common sense. With Euro 600m still required, one hopes that the neighbouring countries affected can spare a little more? Chernobyl is in the Ukraine, but the original reactor was of Russian design.

A personal opinion is that this is the sort of project that European and International co-operation should be all about, and being one major build, it probably has not resulted in excessive syphoning off of the funds into dubious pockets!

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PS: I’m also old enough to remember the expressions on the faces of my Mum and Dad when they heard that John Kennedy had been assassinated!

Yokogawa invests into Silicon Valley fog computing

 

Yokogawa Electric Corporation announces that it has invested in FogHorn Systems Inc, a Silicon Valley start-up that is a leading developer of fog computing* technology. Yokogawa aims to foster development of fog computing technology through its investment in this company. In so doing, Yokogawa hopes to expand the range of solutions that it provides.

Due to the continued growth of cloud computing services and the huge number of devices that have access to cloud resources, there is a growing concern over issues such as network congestion and data processing delays. Fog computing is gaining traction as a technology solution to this problem.

Co-Investors with Yokogawa

FogHorn Systems, a pioneer in the development of software for fog computing applications with outstanding expertise in this field, has attracted the interest of various companies that are promoting IoT. Led by March Capital and GE Ventures, the company has succeeded in raising $12 million in funding from multiple investors, including Yokogawa, Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, and Darling Ventures. There is also a group of investors who invested in the company prior to this round of fundraising. Yokogawa’s stake in the company is worth $900,000.

Yokogawa offers a wide range of control solutions that help its customers improve the safety and efficiency of their operations and make the most effective use of their assets. These solutions include field instruments, control systems, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and management information systems. Industrial IoT (IIoT) technology is making rapid inroads in the control field, and it is expected that fog computing’s enablement of real-time and distributed processing in edge computing applications will significantly accelerate its adoption.

Through this investment in FogHorn Systems, Yokogawa will gain access to the latest fog computing technologies and will also make available its knowledge and expertise in process control and plant operations that will help this company further refine its fog computing technology. Yokogawa aims to make use of fog computing to strengthen the solutions that it provides.

‘Process Co-Innovation’ from Yokogawa

Yokogawa has drawn up a long-term business framework and formulated a vision statement that reads: “Through ‘Process Co-Innovation’ Yokogawa creates new value with our clients for a brighter future. ‘Process Co-Innovation’ is a concept for an automation business that will utilize all of Yokogawa’s measurement, control and information technologies. Accordingly, Yokogawa will seek not only to optimize production processes but also the flow of material and information within and between companies, including their value and supply chains”.

Yokogawa is committed to working with customers to create value through the effective use of IIoT, a key to ‘Process Co-Innovation’. Tsuyoshi Abe, Yokogawa vice president and head of the company’s Marketing Headquarters, said of this investment: “Highly reliable and stable communications are an essential requirement in manufacturing and many other fields. Fog computing is a breakthrough that helps to enhance the use of cloud resources. It is also expected to provide Yokogawa many more opportunities to utilize IIoT in its control business. In line with our corporate brand slogan of ‘Co-innovating tomorrow’, Yokogawa will use FogHorn’s technology to develop new solutions and create new value in collaboration with its customers and partners.”

* Fog computing:

Fog computing is an architectural concept for the realization of edge intelligence and the suppression of communications with the cloud by establishing a ‘fog’ distributed computing layer between the cloud and devices in the field. Fog computing eliminates communications delays and fluctuations by locating the processing of certain data near the field devices that generate the data and sending only essential information to the cloud. As such, there are high expectations that this technology will lead to a number of new IoT applications.

Yokogawa expands intoTurkey

Yokogawa Electric Corporation has announced that its subsidiary, Yokogawa Europe BV has acquired 100% of the shares of its distributor in Turkey, Birleşik Endüstriyel Sistemler Ve Tesisler AS (BEST), which is based in Izmir. Yokogawa sees this as a major step forward into the emerging market in Turkey and the associated area. The acquisition of shares was carried out on November 25.

With this acquisition, Yokogawa is strengthening its focus on Turkey as a market with substantial growth potential. It will allow Yokogawa to extend its position in several promising segments, such as the power industry. Through the acquisition, Yokogawa will also enhance its relationships with customers in Turkey.

“BEST has been Yokogawa’s distributor since 1977 and has already built an excellent reputation in the oil and gas industries, where it will continue to provide great value to customers,” comments Yokogawa Europe’s president Herman van den Berg: “Yokogawa is committed to working with customers as partners to help them get maximum value from their plant operations, and this acquisition is a major step forward in our plans to grow our footprint in emerging markets, and specifically in target industries including the power and energy sectors.”

Fanuc increases robot capacity

FANUC today announced the purchase of 695,000 square meters of land in Japan to increase production capacities for the installation of new CNCs, servo motors and servo amplifiers, as Europe’s demand for robots grows. Under the purchase agreement FANUC is purchasing land from the “Mibu-hanyuda Industrial Park,” with the first phase beginning in September 2015.

FANUC will also expand its laboratories situated in the Headquarters site including the construction of four new factories. With this expansion, testing equipment will be introduced to complement FANUC‘s expert knowledge, to continue to create new and innovative products.

Chris Sumner, vice president, FANUC Europe said: “One of the major reasons behind the increase in our production capacity at FANUC, is the high demand we’ve seen from European manufacturers. As factories look to implement more automation technologies within their manufacturing processes, many have realised the cost-saving potential and increased rate of production that this brings to their businesses. We’ve seen this reflected in our orders over the last twelve months, in the UK in particular we have seen orders increase across the board by over 50 per cent.”

Siemens and British Glass announce partnership

The close ties between Siemens and trade body, the British Glass Manufacturers’ Confederation, have been further strengthened with the announcement of a new technology partnership between the two organisations.  Over the next five years, Siemens will invest up to GBP4m as a key strategic partner to the UK glass sector, providing a range of technology, research & development and skill support services.

As British Glass embarks upon the next phase of its development to ensure the UK glass industry remains globally competitive, Siemens will work alongside the organisation in a variety of critical areas.

A central element to the strategic growth plan for the sector will be the establishment of the new British Glass Innovation Centre, Sheffield – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – which will provide a centre of excellence for glass manufacturers and support the development of an innovative culture and skills for the sector.  The Centre, planned to be built on the Phase 2 site of Sheffield Business Park, will include fully functioning glass production plants, as well as promoting leadership in important areas such as new product development and fast prototyping.

It will also be home to The Glass Academy, the training and skills development initiative set up by British Glass to train the next generation of engineers and technicians entering the sector with the relevant fit-for-purpose skills and qualifications, and to continue to upskill the industry’s current workforce, encouraging a culture of lifelong learning in the sector. Siemens will provide a wide range of technical, product and manpower support to ensure British Glass’ plans benefit from world-class manufacturing expertise, technical excellence and global sector knowledge.

Dave Dalton, left, and Brian Holliday of Siemens

Dave Dalton, left, and Brian Holliday of Siemens

Brian Holliday, Managing Director, Digital Factory – Siemens UK & Ireland, comments: “We are delighted to announce this substantial investment in the future of the UK glass industry.  We are impressed by the strategic ambition of British Glass to develop an innovative culture and to make British glass-making a globally competitive leader. Siemens has a long established relationship with the glass industry across the UK. By developing this technology partnership we want to ensure glass manufacturing is at heart of the future of manufacturing agenda. The newly proposed British Glass Innovation Centre at Sheffield is a prime example where the leaders in the sector are setting out a clear vision for the future and this must be applauded and supported.”

Dave Dalton, CEO of British Glass, says: “Siemens is the first major partner to commit to working with us on the journey to an exciting and highly competitive future. The breadth of Siemens’ technical expertise and support offered to us through the partnership will be vital if we are to successfully transform our industry for the twentyfirst century.  In addition, the concerted efforts by Siemens to help us develop the skills of people in the sector, as well as those entering it, ensures we have a powerful combination to push our industry forward over the next five years.”

Councillor Leigh Bramall, Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development at Sheffield City Council, commented on the announcement: “This is great news for Sheffield. The investment on its own is excellent news and is creating high quality job opportunities. But  when linked to similar developments along the arc of the junction 33 and 34 of the M1, the city is beginning to realise its  potential as one of the major clusters of high value engineering and innovation in Europe if not the world.”