26 Oct 2016
As in many other projects, the acronym of our project – FREED – hides in its letters a monstrous hotchpotch of words. ENERGY. INNOVATION. DEVELOPMENT. These words, which are being overexploited in funding applications and which emerge all the time in political discussion about our future, do catch your attention – at least for a moment. Using of these words properly and in the right context is of course another issue. But what about in FREED? Are we guilty of playing with words, or have we actually some grounds for including these very words in the name of our project? Please, give defence a chance to prove their case, before sentencing us among the wordsmiths or spin doctors, who just want to bewilder their listeners…
The starting point of our project is this: we are not happy with the way we produce or use energy nowadays and we want to change this. We might be paying too much for it, the production methods and fuels that we use are polluting, we might be running out of these resources, or we just want to be better humans and take the environment better into account. Choose the right reasons for you and hold on to them. In order to change the current status of things, we need new technologies and methods, but sometimes these do not exist yet or are not that commonly in use. Sometimes they are just ideas or perhaps a bit more developed innovations, which are just waiting to be found after which they will bloom and take the world by storm. But as we know from the history of technology, even though technological development sometimes resembles a well written movie script, truth is stranger than fiction. The hero does not always overcome the obstacles and get the girl, the inventor’s idea might never leave his table, perhaps not even his head. The world is full of good and bad ideas, but only few of them change the world. This is where we enter the stage.
Developments in the energy sector, including production, distribution and consumption of energy, do not differ greatly from the fundamentals of innovation and technological advancement. Whether an idea or an innovation will turn into a game changer, depends on several of different factors. Even if there is a demand for such thing, it is not obvious that the demand and the need would meet. This is especially true when it comes to new companies, which struggle to get their ideas out from their offices into the real world and to consumers. There are already support mechanisms – funding programmes and various organisations – which try to make things easier for SMEs and help them to push their innovations to the markets. FREED aims to make a difference here by adding one significant feature to the approach: funding. Not even the best idea can take off, if there is no money to fund the commercialization of it.
FREED will develop an energy innovation development service, which does not overlap with the existing innovation support programmes and organisations, rather takes them into account, and will also include funding instrument in it in the form of private angel funders. This service, which will respond to the true needs of innovation developers in their path to commercial applications, will be built up in the course of the project. The project will initiate six invitations to tender processes in the energy sector, which are based on real needs, emerging from the participating regions. SMEs are asked to provide these solutions and the implementation of these innovations serves as case studies on how to introduce innovations in energy. What kind of support mechanisms do the SMEs, which provide these solutions, need in order to make it in the real world? The overall aim is to find that holy grail, which would guide innovators through the treacherous waters and pass the valley of death where many have succumbed. The goal is to get to the green pastures, where innovations have become viable businesses, which provide well-being for the employees and the society in large in the form of the products that they produce…
So what is your final verdict? Have we earned the right to use those three words, which have been way overused already in this short text. If so, and if you feel that we have caught your attention, please follow us, we are more than happy to nourish your curiosity in our upcoming blogs, news items, tweets and other messages. Feel free to subscribe also to our e-mail bulletin.
I hope that you have enjoyed our common journey so far, it has only started…
Niko Hänninen, coordinator of FREED project, University of Oulu
The partners gathered for a kick off meeting in Oulu, Finland, in March, where they came in contact with the harsh realities of the Northern, sparsely populated areas. Here, if somewhere, energy innovations are sorely needed. In fact, some are already emerging and making their way to reach also you. Stay tuned!