BOWI (Boosting Widening Digital Innovation Hubs) is a European project for development of international cooperation in the environment of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH), the newest competence centers and platforms for interaction of business, science, innovators and authorities. Through such competitions, Europe seriously stimulates and finances innovative companies and especially their associations – consortia. The peculiarity of BOWI is that it is aimed at increasing innovativeness, technology, and competitiveness, including those of Ukrainian enterprises, and at the same time at building stable international corridors of interaction with European partners. Within the framework of BOWI competition, SMEs could receive 60,000 euros each for development of their ideas in the fields of cyber-physical systems, artificial intelligence, autonomous and additive manufacturing, Internet of Things, modeling and simulation. That is, funds for technologies that contribute to digital transformation and for support of enterprises and entire industries.
The project coordinator is the KPI DIH 4.0 Center, located in the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. DIH is an association of partners based on the cluster model, in which the “Association of Industrial Automation of Ukraine” (APPAU) plays key role. APPAU was the driver of DIH’s involvement in this competition, provided innovative brokerage for participants, attracted SMEs, conducted trainings for both the BOWI team itself and enterprises. As a result, 35 applications were prepared, and this is the largest number among the 9 EU member states. Further, the European consortium of organizers, having carefully analyzed applications for ambition, innovativeness, validity of the decision, market opportunities and ability of SMEs to fulfill their goals, selected the 4 best applications. And now 4 Ukrainian companies, together with DIH KPI and Polish partners from DIH PIAP, are working on innovative digital solutions at the European level. Within six months, in March 2023, we will see the results. And we know that they will be very relevant for our country and Europe in general.
We talked about impressions of the competition and its first results with Serhiy Yuzvak, technical director at JV “Ukrinterm”, one of the winning companies of BOWI.
– What does your organization do? How long have you been on the market?
For more than 28 years, the company has been producing heating equipment, in particular, boilers of various capacities. There is standardized serial equipment, and there are also unique installations that are designed for clients’ special needs. The strategy has always been stable – bringing high-tech heating equipment and service as close as possible to consumers in all regions of Ukraine. In total, more than 4,650 modular boiler units have been installed and are operating in the territory of Ukraine during company’s active operation. Taking a course on energy efficiency even before it became a trend, we have the following consequences: on the national scale, 7.2 billion m³ of gas are saved every year. And we don’t stop. This is also aided by an extensive network of partners and representative offices.
Even typical equipment requires adjustment, maintenance, and quality control. Improper maintenance leads to breakdowns, excessive consumption of fuel, and negative impact on the environment. Much of the company’s qualified specialists working time is spent on solving problems of incompetence of clients’ personnel and leads to clients’ financial losses. Clients expect extended service in terms of ensuring energy efficiency of equipment, its environmental friendliness, operation in optimal modes, convenient monitoring, including remote monitoring, and remote support of each specific unit. New technologies, new solutions and new approaches are what the market expects from us.
– How did you find out about the BOWI contest? Why did you decide to participate?
We were told. In fact, we have very close contacts with both the Ukrainian cluster alliance and universities. We pay a lot of attention to our products’ future. Everything is digitized, becoming smart, especially in Europe. We have to be ready for this, so we communicate with both engineers and scientists. Therefore, when in a conversation with the employees of the Igor Sikorskyi KPI Department of Energy Processes Automation the question of participation was raised, it became interesting. Of course, not everything went smoothly right away. Understand, we have a lot of work to do, people are busy with their duties. It is difficult to single out a specialist who would deal only with this. Therefore, interest fought with pragmatism: who will do all this, at what cost? Interest won, along with the desire to develop. The department promised us help with the technical component, because the competition is technological. And getting external financing to implement the desired technology on our enterprise itself was very appropriate.
– Why did you win the BOWI contest? What was your advantage over other participants?
To be honest, I don’t know what our advantage was over the other contestants. We did not analyze other applications. But we clearly knew what we wanted to achieve, we discussed it gradually and for a long time in our team, we talked with specialists. It was not a spontaneous decision “to offer at least something, it might win”.
The application process itself was not easy. On one hand, everything was clear. The same questions that partners and clients ask us during negotiations: what is the advantage of your products; why we should choose you; but your competitors offer such conditions, what is your leverage. We know how to answer them because we are confident in our equipment quality. And on the other hand, there were lots of nuances that are either uncertain or deeply technological. Especially since we need to talk about the technology that we just want to have, and not already implemented and polished. This is a new experience for us. It’s good that we had the support of consultants. They helped a lot to understand the essence of the competition and draw our attention to relevant applications.
– So what kind of technology do you want to have? How is it useful for you and your customers?
We want to make a digital twin of our condensing boilers line. This in itself is quite innovative equipment. The “premix” fuel burning technology is used here, which stabilizes combustion processes. And the most important thing is the condensation operation mode. In combustion chamber, coolant supplied to heat exchanger first pre-exchanges heat with initial combustion products, while moisture contained in combustion products condenses, releasing additional, “hidden” heat. This effect increases efficiency, or simply put, it is economically beneficial for user. In addition, the boilers are modular, and you can choose configuration that suits your needs. Boilers even now have automation, and it perfectly copes with the assigned tasks. But new times dictate new tasks, we must respond.
We are developing a solution that allows you to constantly monitor the state of each instance of equipment, detect possible problems in an automated mode by simulating behavior in real time, optimize operation of installation through simulation of various scenarios, and reduce impact of the human factor. In this case, client delegates diagnostics and monitoring to qualified specialists, reduces burden on his staff, which increases reliability of his own business. And we get more valuable information about operation of our boilers, we quickly react to various situations. Ideally, before situation develops into something undesirable.
Technically, if we go into the details, then a communication with the object device is installed on the boiler, which collects data from sensors and local control systems, processes them and sends them to a cloud, where the digital twin is implemented. The heart of the solution is a set of static and dynamic mathematical models that reflect structural characteristics of the instance and its behavior over time. The model is retrained on data obtained from installation in order to match it as much as possible, and is used for online comparison of calculations with dynamics of real equipment, fixing discrepancies, simulating scenarios and optimizing operating modes.
– What did the victory in BOWI give you, what opportunities opened up after the victory?
For us, this is an opportunity to look at the innovative part of our activity in a different way. This energized us, the team assembled for the project is working enthusiastically. We have high hopes for success of this project, we need it both as a way to facilitate our activities and as a way to stand out among competitors. Plus, interaction with European partners is a great opportunity to analyze the state and expectations of technologies in the European Union, to find like-minded people, and maybe even customers. Well, and recognition, of course. Participation in an international competition with participants from many countries, and the project is being talked about all over Europe, it’s hard to find a better PR.
It is important to understand that this project is only a pilot that will continue to develop, and the company will develop along with it. We understand that.
– What are the development prospects of your organization? Are there opportunities for development during war, or is it just about survival?
We plan to continue our business – producing high-tech heat-generating equipment. In my opinion, condensing heating modules will have the greatest demand on heat generating equipment market. Several 3-5 mW projects based on МН-500 type condensing modules (500 kW) are currently in operation. We will develop area of transportable modular boiler houses, and we will not leave the topic of individual heating points (IHP) for residential and administrative buildings. In any case, we will listen to requirements of the market.
During the military operations, the company, unfortunately, is not loaded at 100%. For some time, the enterprise did not work, but we kept our team and are working now. The heating season is approaching, and there is a demand for our products. We also cooperate with charitable foundations. Currently, we are making steel stoves for the Serhiy Prytula Charitable Foundation, which will then go to the front.
– What is your vision of the industry’s future development in Ukraine? How do you assess actions of the state to support the industry during the war?
Development of the heat-generating industry will begin after the war ends. We will need to restore heat, water, and electricity supplies to our cities. During war, the state engages in war. To support Ukrainian production, it is necessary to place orders in Ukraine, and not abroad. As they say, “birds of a feather”.
– Is it possible for Ukraine to transition to a cluster model of economic development? What are the benefits of the cluster model for your industry?
I think transition to a cluster model of economic development is real. The cluster model requires organizing business in the direction of applying innovative resource-saving and energy-saving technologies, which is what we are currently doing!