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RG Stories: Interview with RG Challenge19 startup Smart Power Networks

By March 10, 2020 No Comments
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In this series of blogs of thriving RG alumni start-ups, we are excited to feature Smart Power Networks, a technology start-up that is actively involved in the Electrical Power System industry.

Smart Power Networks introduces smartness to power systems, through the use of intelligent control systems, which create the conditions for a secure and robust power grid. Since 2017, the successful start-up offers innovative software and hardware applications for renewables integration, as well as technical advice and consulting, that aims at the connection of renewables to modern power systems.

Anastasios Rousis, Co-founder and CEO of Smart Power Networks participated in RG Challenge19 and explains all about the start-up’s entrepreneurial journey, his experience on the RG Challenge programme and his future plans and hopes for the company, in the interview below.

The inspiration behind Smart Power Networks and the start-up’s entrepreneurial journey

Smart Power Networks was born when its two founders realised that the energy sector was transforming and they decided to be part of this transformation, by integrating highly innovative technology to power systems. 

As Anastasios explains “Having worked in the energy sector for nearly a decade, my business partner and I identified the transformation of the sector and the needs and challenges to be solved before a successful energy transition is realised. Particularly, we grasped the need for a complete change in the business-as-usual approach, which very much related to an outdated way of expanding networks (i.e. over-investments on highly under-utilised assets). Instead, we realised that by shifting this paradigm to approaches entailing smart control and operation strategies a cost-effective and flexible transition towards a truly smart grid can be realised. As of September 2017, Smart Power Networks (SMPnet) has been established to encapsulate this vision into our mission for smartness to power systems.”

Anastasios states that their start-up journey so far has been a real adventure, an amazing rollercoaster. “We have struggled, learned and gotten to know ourselves better, and we feel that every single day we are coming closer to realising our vision. Looking forward to what the future holds for us!”

The RG Challenge Experience

As Anastasios explains “It’s been a great experience to mix up with the lovely bunch of people working for Reload Greece. The RG Challenge, being our first ever accelerator programme, has enabled us to expand our knowledge on areas we hadn’t touched back then, and constructively challenge the way we have been setting up and operating our business.”

However, Smart Power Networks state that the RG experience does not stop at the participation in a single programme. “Following completion of the RG Challenge, we attended the RG Connect conference, which undoubtedly turned into a key networking event with investors, mentors, politicians, etc. Particularly, for SMPnet who participated in a relevant panel discussion, the publicity achieved was this high that for weeks after its completion we would get requests for follow-up meetings from various conference attendees.”

“Last but not least, it was due to RG that we got introduced to the Global Entrepreneur Programme run by the Department of International Trade of the British Government. This has opened significant opportunities to network with the start-up and investors community in the UK and has also increased the outreach and reputation of SMPnet.”

Smart Power Networks’ progress since RG Challenge19

In terms of the progress that the start-up has seen, following RG Challenge19, Anastasios explains “SMPnet has invested significant time into shaping a robust business model, understanding our market space in a more profound way and promoting the company to potential early adopters of our technology. We have achieved all that with the endless efforts of the current members, and also the invaluable help of the new member we welcomed in the 2nd half of 2019.”

“Additionally, we have recently been admitted in the Innovator Support Platform, Energy Systems Catapult’s incubator programme, from which we will get a set of services including a detailed market research study, refinement of our business model and pricing strategy, and a benchmark technical case study.”

Gaining investment

Since participating in RG Challenge19, Smart Power Networks have been bidding into various competitions to unlock access to grant funding. Anastasios states Smart Power Networks have recently secured the highly prestigious Detailed Designs of Smart, Local Energy Systems funded by Innovate UK. The grant funding will allow us to 1) expand our human resources by onboarding two new members and 2) to test our product in an operational environment centred around a flagship project in the heart of Liverpool.”

The next new trends in the energy sector

In terms of the next new trends in the energy sector, Anastasios states that The electricity system is being transformed not only to include renewable energy sources and shift to a decentralised paradigm, but more importantly the electricity system needs to be integrated with other systems, including heat and transport networks. The latter leads to a whole energy system view, which lately has attracted significant attention due to the paramount benefits that can offer towards a cost-effective energy transition. It is anticipated that much of this decade will be all about integrating energy systems of different carriers.”

“SMPnet is currently expanding their offering to ensure that our Smart Network Controller can integrate and control not only electricity sources, but also electric vehicles, heat pumps, CHP plants, etc. In this way, we will remain at the forefront of development for the foreseeable future and we will be contributing to the energy transition at our maximum capacity.”

Building a sustainable company

In our question about what it takes to build a sustainable company, Anastasios responds that It is all about the core values, the ethos that a company embraces. Founders struggle to position their companies in the industry by responding to questions ‘What the company does?’ or ‘How does the company achieve what it does?’. But really to build a sustainable, an ever evolving and innovative company one key question shall be answered: Why we are working in this sector?

Thinking this way, a company can achieve an inspiring communication of their products to the respective industry. For example, SMPnet develops great automation systems, but we prefer to be selected by our customers because of the way we think and operate. We struggle to think differently and bring change to a slowly moving industry, which however is in great need of rapid evolvement. That is how we believe that we can establish trust with clients that come back to us over and over again.”

Future plans

The start-up’s plans for the next 5 years is to “be a fully commercial company with a countable clientele list across UK, Greece and beyond, and be recognised as leaders in the automation sector around energy systems.”

“Apart from the Smart Network Controller (our core business focus at the moment), we have a suite of products and services we envision to bring to the market within this 5-year period. Just to give you a glimpse, we are trying to develop an in-house data analytics capability that will bring us in a position to obtain deep insights of energy systems and ultimately help our clients understand their networks and best operate them.”

A positive impact on Greece

According to Smart Power Networks Greece is a very unique country in terms of geo-location, network topology and renewable energy potential. Given that much of the future renewable energy sources will be decentralised, SMPnet is well-placed to provide solutions ensuring that renewable energy is optimally utilised and fuel-based resources are gradually decommissioned in a safe manner. We believe that, once in a full commercial scale, our technology will be an absolute must-have for the Public Power Corporation and Hellenic Distribution Network Operator. We have been in discussions with both organisations and we are confident that soon we will manage to test our Smart Network Controller within their plants or networks.”

The founders’ vision for Smart Power Networks

According to the founders of Smart Power Networks, their vision for the start-up is to “see it becoming an exemplary case of an ethical and sustainable company bringing true change to the world through our technical solutions. Towards this end, myself and my partner are striving to create a team of highly qualified individuals embracing the ethos of the company, and who can live up to the expectations and resolve the challenges lying ahead.”

A positive testimonial for RG Challenge

It’s amazing to hear Anastasios’ comments about RG Challenge; “RG Challenge enabled us to expand our knowledge on areas we hadn’t touched before, and constructively challenge the way we set up and operate our businessI would have no hesitation in recommending the RG Challenge to any ambitious entrepreneurs looking to establish a successful business.”

If you are looking to fast track your start-up and become investment ready, our global call for applications to RG Challenge20 is now open!