All the world is now looking for solutions in the RES area. Is it difficult to compete with a lot more powerful markets and countries in the sphere of innovations, and does it make sense?
Yes, indeed, today an unprecedented amount of intellectual efforts in the world is spent in pursue of the RES solutions. This is done to minimize the negative anthropogenic impact on the global environmental balance. However, I would not call this process a competition. The competition assumes that there are the winners and the losers. Those who work on the common case and add their contribution to dealing with global problems are winners, this way or other. I would rather refer this process to the win-win category.
From your experience, where are the disruptive innovations: are those mostly small garages or large laboratories; professional teams at technological parks, or hopeless dreamers that got together in the kitchen; leading countries or developing countries?
Interesting ideas that may have a high potential for development are born not in garages or laboratories, but rather in the heads of people overstepping the boundaries of the "correct" application of knowledge. People who do not limit themselves with available resources and find motivation in an itch to create. Therefore, everyone has a chance to find new ideas. However, it is impossible to turn an idea into a groundbreaking technology working all alone. This is a common goal for many strong teams. Indeed, this process requires huge investments in the research equipment, development of prototypes, implementation of pilot projects. That is why the most developed countries invest so much attention, efforts and money into hunting for and screening ideas.
Business, state institutes and researchers are all involved in the innovations – who has the highest chances for the breakthrough?
As a rule, state institutes work on more fundamental problems that do not immediately turn into the product. Their knowledge is constantly published and considered a joint achievement. A role of the innovative business is in the 'correct' application of the new knowledge when forming its products.
In an ideal scenario, how can we build interaction among everyone involved in the area of innovations? Or would it be better if the state, scientific and business researchers compete instead of collaborate?
Of course, the business and the state should fruitfully cooperate with each other. A goal of the country is to increase wellbeing of the citizens, which ensured through pumping up the budget with taxes generated by the business, and meeting people's needs with products that are also generated by the business. From the perspective of the common sense, there should be no competition between the state and the business. The country should deal with scientific issues, generate knowledge needed by everyone, and share that knowledge with the business. It is a win-win process.
What breakthroughs in RES-related research areas are the most important for the world today?
Today, we already have electric power of the sun and wind power plants which is cheaper that power generated by conventional sources. A trend of its further cheapening is inevitable and is associated with improvement in technologies. But even if it is free, its transfer in time for long 'distances' and in large amounts costs more than the of conventional power. Therefore, the main problems costs everybody is working upon today is the large-scale accumulation of power and its long-time storage.
If you look at the history of the KNESS Group – when did those innovations become an important part of your business?
From the very start, the company offered on the market seemingly usual products, but in an unusual way. We have been always overstepping template solutions that exist in the market, and have always been forming our own vision. We did not copy – we looked at client's problem and found an unconventional solution to meet it. However, when we grew up and felt the boundaries of the market, we realized that the scaling strategy is not the leading one. Then we opted for a strategy of differentiation through innovation as the main one. We see future needs, but new technologies mean a long period of development, therefore we have to be ahead of today's needs at least for several years. And this requires some focused, systematic work.
The integration of the developed innovations into the company's business is irrefutable proof of efficiency of the investment to the research. What RnD achievements have already been implemented in the activities of KNESS Group?
Development of solar power plants remains the main business of the company. The main product received by the investor is returns on investment. It is influenced by many factors: performance, CAPEX, OPEX, structure, availability and cost of capital. The most significant criteria in achieving maximal profitability is a decrease in LCOE (Levelized Cost of Electricity, or cost price of a kWh generated by the facility). The RnD development unit works on that issue. We have the best on the market levels of metal consumption of the bearing structures. We have optimized all building and installation and planning solutions. We significantly reduced the price of the complete invertor stations.
In addition to the hard technologies, RnD also implements IT products. This is SCADA that increases company's compatibility on the market of the solar plant maintenance in Ukraine. This is the generation forecast system based on the artificial intelligence system. As of today, this system is unique for Ukraine. It enables reduction in expenditures to adjust for imbalances of power plants which is a vital request due to an increase in the share of RES responsibility for imbalances.
Today, RnD also works on future products that have not been introduced on the business. These are completely our own RnD power electronic products ready to be introduced at the market. These are completely new designs of flow batteries, hydrogen transportation and production which are still at the initial stages of the technology development.
Innovations is the topic that concerns not only scientific and practical research, but also the corporative culture and spirit of the company. What do innovations mean for the KNESS Group?
The innovation is not only about technologies. The innovations are manifested in the way of meeting client's needs and the willingness to deal with non-typical tasks. I think that one of the most innovative components of our product is the financial product EPCF that is completely unique on the Ukraine's market and significantly improves the investment return rate of the projects of our clients.
Are the innovations more important for further business development, or as social responsibility marker of the company?
I am sure that innovations are the main criteria for ensuring business development and success.
What is a difference in the architecture of processes in such creative groups as RnD, an in a regular team working on the commercial issues?
The RnD projects are characterized with the highest uncertainty level. This does not allow planning projects with high precision and strictly stick to the goals set. RnD process rates suppose high fault tolerance. But participants of creative teams should have internal motivation on their way to the result. This is the activity where you cannot force anybody to be efficient. Only those remain who believe in the results and strive to achieve it.