Aalto researchers accelerating the green transition in ABB-led programme’s projects
How to develop the most effective solutions to speed up the green transition? How to ensure Finland's leading position in achieving carbon neutrality? Or how to ensure the security and resilience of the energy system as a whole in the future? Technology company ABB leads the five-year Green Electrification 2035 programme, where experts from the research and business worlds work together in shared ecosystems to find real solutions to these important questions.
ABB has launched the Green Electrification 2035 project to address critical issues: how to build a carbon-neutral world with green electricity in the next couple of decades. ABB's Simo Säynevirta is used to handling these kinds of important issues. He is not only in charge of the ecosystem work of the Green Electrification 2035 programme, but he also leads the Hydrogen cluster Finland, a network of companies and industrial associations promoting the hydrogen economy.
"We have a common urgency. The IEA updated its plan for the world to be carbon neutral by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. We need to electrify fossil fuel-powered things at a very fast pace. If you spend five years on research and another five years to make it commercial, we just won't have enough time", Säynevirta says.
ABB is investing in the Green Electrification 2035 programme to speed up the green transition globally. The programme involves ABB’s various units, like Motion and Electrification, which focus on different aspects of electrification. Motion deals with electric motor operation and automation, while Electrification specialises in power distribution and control.
Petri Hovila is responsible for ABB's Green Electrication 2035 programme, but he is also in charge of the external research in ABB Electrification unit. Hovila certainly knows that collaboration needs to be smooth with other research institutes, but also with the customers.
"For us at ABB, it is essential that we work very closely with our customers. Understanding their real-world requirements is very important," Hovila mentions.
Hovila says that the programme's research partnerships need companies to guide the research. This simply helps make the results more useful in the long run.
Hydrogen technologies, platform economy and electric motors
ABB has been a valuable partner for Aalto University's schools for a long time, so it's natural researchers from different fields at Aalto are also part of the Green Electrification ecosystems. Professor Tanja Kallio's group for example conducts research on modern hydrogen technologies. Assistant Professor Kimmo Karhu leads research on platform economics and network effects. Assistant Professor Raine Viitala on the other hand represents the traditional expertise in engineering in the Green Electrification programme.
Simo Säynevirta says that despite the programme's goal to speed up the green transition, the traditional cooperation between ABB and Aalto remains unchanged. According to Säynevirta, the need for engineering expertise both in electrical and mechanical engineering continues to this day – and to the future.
"For example, we have long had a strong partnership with the School of Electrical Engineering in the development of power electronics. This collaboration will remain at the heart of our work", Säynevirta says.
We are making device platforms open and flexible. This will allow them to serve a variety of applications, even ones we aren't aware of yet.
Säynevirta and Hovila discuss the progress made in the Green Electrification 2035 programme so far: two of the company’s technology platforms are now open to others. Aalto has also played a role in the development of one of these, i.e. the platform related to power electronics and their control.
“The goal is to make it easier to build various systems by adding functionality and updating software. We have opened up the platforms to allow others to create their own applications. This way, they can make their applications closer to the core of the device. We are making device platforms more open and flexible. This will allow them to serve a variety of applications, even ones we aren't aware of yet. Additionally, they will be faster and more widely available in the future”, Petri Hovila says.
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ABB and Aalto's partnership is valuable, but there’s always room for improvement
Aalto University benefits a lot from its multidisciplinary approach, says Simo Säynevirta from ABB. This is true not only in the Green Electrification programme’s ecosystems, but also in other areas of collaboration.
“Aalto is well-structured. It has the School of Business, the School of Arts and Design, and the different technology schools. You have commercial and design expertise in the same university", he says.
Raine Viitala, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, praises ABB especially for helping with infrastructure at Aalto University. Säynevirta and Hovila say that when the company helps with basic research, it leads to new innovations.
"That's why we want to bring state-of-the-art technology into research. To give students an idea of what technology is like during their undergraduate studies. Universities should always have the latest technologies available to them”, Säynevirta says.
"The newest equipment also helps to find concrete problems and create new research around them", Hovila continues.
Raine Viitala cites the already completed Met4Wind-project as one of the success stories of the ABB-Aalto collaboration. The EU-funded project aimed to enhance efficiency in wind energy systems, and it has already achieved commercial success.
Together we need to solve the problem of how to get more done faster.
Another area for improvement is the slowness of the academic world – something the green transition does not have time for right now, as Säynevirta mentioned earlier. This is another area where more collaboration is needed.
We need to get more done faster than before
"We need new talent, we need new innovations, and together we need to solve the problem of how to get more done faster. We need to further develop our cooperation so that the best ideas turn from research results into effective solutions more quickly than is currently the case", says Säynevirta.
And ABB is happy to help with future innovation. They can for example assist research groups in commercialising their solutions. Säynevirta also mentions Professor Tanja Kallio's group's research: there aren't that many electrolyser manufacturers in Finland – yet.
"ABB's global presence allows the Green Electrification programme to distribute new solutions in over 100 countries. We want to help talented individuals succeed and support any innovative ideas that may arise", Säynevirta concludes.
Petri Hovila also points out that the Green Electrification 2035 programme still has plenty of funding available through Business Finland.
"If the idea matches the programme, we are happy to help. All you have to do is set up a startup and put a good idea on the table", he encourages.