Research, development and innovation
The goal of innovation efforts is to improve the profitability and quality of operations and respond to changes in the operating environment. R&D projects are often a prerequisite for processing an idea into an innovation. In addition, by predicting the coming changes in the operating environment, brainstorming and R&D projects can be targeted to the right business areas and the necessary measures can be implemented in good time.
During the financial year, a record EUR 2.1 million was invested in R&D operations. Most (67%) research work was outsourced to universities, research institutes and other parties, with Fingrids in-house work consisting mostly of thesis projects (8) and steering R&D projects. Digital-related development projects have become a new focal point alongside traditional development areas (system security, electricity markets and transmission system).
Developing competence in the industry, taking into account the future needs of Finland, is also in Fingrids benefit in terms of ensuring both high-quality R&D work and competent staff. The programmes and chairs supported by Fingrid included the Lappeenranta University of Technologys Doctoral Programme in Energy Systems (2014–2016), the University of Vaasas smart electricity grid professorship (2016–2021), and the development of the University of Vaasas education services related to bus systems for substation automation (2015–2016).
As international, especially Nordic, collaboration intensified, we concluded an R&D collaboration agreement with the Nordic TSOs (Statnett, Fingrid, Svenska Kraftnät, Energinet.dk and Landsnet). The goal is to, among other things, promote the Nordic perspective in European R&D activities and to collaborate in R&D projects.
Positive communication, for its part, supports the development of a successful innovation culture and good collaboration. During the financial year, we published an R&D and innovation magazine aimed at our stakeholders and our own personnel. The magazine presents the most interesting R&D projects throughout the years as well as an overview of future innovation activities.
R&D co-operation brings synergy benefits to the different parties. The collaboration with technology companies, service providers and startups creates new business opportunities for companies, and gives them the opportunity to pilot innovations in a real environment and using real data. Fingrid, for its part, receives the methods and services it requires on market terms and with the efficient use of resources. In addition, customer needs are taken into account in projects carried out jointly with customers. In order to further the collaboration, we published Fingrids R&D roadmaps on our website and we updated our guidelines in order to make practical co-operation run more smoothly. We had a positive experience during the year with our open innovation competition , which led to collaboration with four companies. The winning ideas – an acoustic camera, smart glasses, crowdsourcing and sensor technology – will be jointly developed into functional solutions for grid maintenance. Another good example of R&D co-operation is the electricity storage pilot project in Helsinkis Suvilahti that was launched together with the customer and service provider. With the assistance of the Lappeenranta University of Technology, the project involves developing a solution that enables the use of a battery storage facility to meet the needs of the electricity seller, TSO and distribution company in a market environment.
Breakdown of R&D costs
Actual R&D expenditure by account
Key events of 2016
Fingrid’s competition results in four new development ideas
We held an open competition to brainstorm development ideas for improving the grid system’s maintenance and repair work. Four of the proposed ideas advanced to the implementation stage. The ideas support the trend toward maintenance based on condition and measurement data. Through the competition, we also sought approaches for developing innovation activities.
Our objective with the brainstorming competition was to introduce outside competence and ideas in the efforts to develop the company’s operations.
The winning ideas were:
Empower – using smart glasses in maintenance. The idea is based on virtual documentation technology that can bring benefits in grid maintenance, planning and asset management.
Noiseless Acoustics – acoustic camera for detecting and locating deviating sounds. The idea is based on a new kind of acoustic camera technology, which enables the location of equipment faults, for example.
Scoopshot – utilising crowdsourcing with targeted photo tasks. The idea is based on information collection with photos using crowdsourcing. The method can be used, for example, for locating faults by people participating in the task.
Vaisala – a new measurement technology. The idea is based on a simple sensor and a new kind of measurement technology. The method can be used to detect faulty components without an inspection that requires an outage, thus bringing savings in maintenance costs.
The winning ideas may not be implemented exactly as they are, as they need further joint research. The winners were announced in May 2016 at Fingrid's Maintenance Management 2020 event.