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Innovative Actuators for empowering smart pipeline infrastructures towards secure water, gas and heating supply

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ACT4INFRA (Innovative Actuators for empowering smart pipeline infrastructures towards secure water, gas and heating supply)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

Urban life depends on a secure supply of water, generally supplied by pipe-bound infrastructure. These systems are highly vulnerable to external threats as they are not capable of being protected physically with locks and fences due to their widespread geographic footprint and many access points. Risks occur from terrorism as well as from hazardous events and adverse effects of climate change. Furthermore, some threats, as unconventional attacks, cannot be foreseen, and reducing all possible risks to a minimum level is often neither possible nor cost effective. This has widened protection scenarios towards an increased resilience in order to reassure service continuity in the aftermath of destructive events especially in cases, when these cannot be predicted. Thus, a “smart” approach for pipes and valves infrastructure is needed in order to react to different critical situations.
3S offers operators of pipe-bound networks cost-effective and secure products for “smart pipeline networks” to get required information out of the underground grid and to enable them to withstand threats in order to protect and control the critical infrastructure. The innovative actuators of 3S are offering the unique opportunity of efficient retrofitting of buried valves, as their mobile communications, energy and space saving technology requires no expensive construction effort or specific infrastructure for upgrading existing valves. Thus, they are suitable tools to efficiently operate smart and secure networks.
To successfully commercialise the technological advantages of its technology, 3S conducted a feasibility study in phase 1 of the project, comprising i) a market analysis including analyses of market structures, customer needs, market conditions in different countries, and ii) strategy approaches derived from this analysis including, cost structures and pricing strategies, distribution strategy, economy of scale and production strategies.
The studies confirmed the feasibility of the project and its promising business potential. Furthermore, it shaped 3S’ strategic approach for commercialisation that should be realised through a large scale pilot demonstrations during Phase 2 of ACT4INFRA.
The SME Instrument Phase 1 of the project has been successfully finished after 6 months by the end of December 2015. The performed feasibility study resulted in an updated business plan. According to the Grant Agreement for SME Instrument Phase 1 of the project “ACT4INFRA” 3S has realised the following tasks during Phase 1:
• Analysis of market structure, customer needs and technical requirements
• Market survey, incl. identifying key players, distribution channels and required certifications
• Cost analysis for different business scenarios and forecast
• Market entry strategy
• Development of criteria for evaluation of suitable distribution partners
• Analysis of production capacities
• Roadmap for production scale-up
• Analysis of cost and efficiency benefits
• Strategy for optimized production

The market analysis provided highly valuable information about the most attractive European markets, key players and their needs. These insights helped 3S to devlop a profound market-entry and market development strategy including a ranking to enter foreign national markets and a scheme for evaluating suitable distribution partners. Dedicated calculations and an analysis of the production scale up yielded important results to manage the market roll-out and the future expansion of the company. All information were included in an updated business plan und confirmed 3S proposition to apply for SME instrument phase 2 funding.
By the end of the project, 3S is well prepared to move the technology towards a TRL 8 and demonstrate a pilot in several national markets in order to leverage its market impact. By delivering cost-effective automatable valves, network operators can significantly improve the resilience of their systems against hazardous events and decrease their risk to face obligations and liability issues in the case of disruptions or other incidents. Furthermore, facilitating enhanced monitoring and maintenance, resource efficiency of networks during normal operation will be increased as water losses and energy consumption can be reduced. 3S solutions will contribute to smart, secure and efficient underground networks to enhance the level of protection of urban critical infrastructures in Europe.
In addition, the project was an important facilitator for 3S’ business development. The economic impact of this project and the perspectives for diversification, European expansion and company growth are very large and imply a valuable investment in a new production facility, harbouring intentions for global expansion. The vision of 3S is to become a leading company for secure and smart solutions in the pipe-bound infrastructure sector and to reinvest generated financial resources into the further implementation of innovative ideas at 3S.