Business support

With the support of the Prototech programme of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) Technology Business Centre, six prototypes have been developed in the currently topical smart energy sector.

Andrejs Berdņikovs, Head of the LIAA Technology Business Centre, emphasises that smart energy is very important in the context of energy independence. Everyone is currently experiencing high energy costs – any solution that offers even a small saving is a major benefit.

"Smart energy projects make processes more efficient and friendly to the environment. Several smart energy solutions that we supported in the programme are aimed at households but there are also some that can be applied more effectively to small-scale production plants. And there are dual-use solutions that can be used for both civilian and military purposes", says A. Berdņikovs.

The Prototech programme offered entrepreneurs up to 15,000 euros to develop their prototypes. He points out that this amount is often enough to develop a software prototype, but for hardware, it is not always sufficient. “This is why I’m happy to see that there were smart energy projects that managed to come up with promising prototypes, even with such little funding,” adds A. Berdņikovs.

Working on more efficient solar panels and use of heat emissions

The company Hydrokapillar Tech (SIA) had the idea of cooling solar panels to increase their electricity generation efficiency, slow down degradation and use the heat emissions from the panels for hot water production and heating. In order to transform their idea from concept to prototype, the team decided to apply for the Prototech support programme.

"Our idea was to create a working prototype that would prove our theoretical assumptions in practice. During the programme, we developed a prototype and carried out test measurements with the help of scientists from Riga Technical University. Based on this, the prototype can be tested in real conditions to obtain data that will be useful for the further commercialisation of the product," says Sandra Bukane, CEO of SIA Hydrokapillar Tech.

Both the new prototype and solar panels that are not equipped with a cooling system are scheduled to be installed on the roof of the company’s building in March to compare the two technologies. "Up-to-date data is a very important factor in the further commercialisation of the overall system solution," says S. Bukane.

She sees great potential for capillary technology in addition to heating and cooling buildings – capillary heat exchangers can also be used in greenhouses, as well as for heating and cooling other processes and collecting heat emissions. "The EU is moving towards low-temperature heating solutions and the wider use of heat pumps, not only in individual homes but also in district heating and cooling. The collection and use of different types of waste heat is also topical. Our solution fits this area well, and also covers the aspects of increasing the efficiency of solar panels and slowing their degradation," adds S. Bukane.

One step closer to energy independence

Mārtiņš Velmeris, co-author of the prototype wood gas generator developed by the Proventus Assurance team, says that currently most wood chips are simply burnt to produce heat energy. But he is convinced that wood chips can be used in a more efficient way – in the form of cogeneration. This is why he and his team already had the idea of using wood chips for both electricity and heat. It became more topical after Russia started the war in Ukraine, followed by the energy crisis with rising natural gas prices and supply challenges. "We happened to read about the Prototech programme in the newspaper and decided to take action," says M. Velmeris.

Initially, the team hoped to build a plant that generates both electricity and heat. However, during the process, it became clear that getting there would require much more funding than is available under this programme. A prototype was therefore developed, allowing us to move forward and seek funding for the next steps.

From an idea to the first prototype

For some time now, the Neohytech team has had an idea for a solution for energy production. When considering ideas for the most effective practical application, they concluded that the best way to integrate the technology would be in the form of an alternative electricity generator. Olga Bogdanova, founder of Neohytech, explains that the potential product is a hydrogen generator that requires aluminium and alkaline water to operate. A chemical reaction in the reactor produces hydrogen, which is stored and converted into electricity. Heat is also released as a by-product of the reaction. "Our team saw a lot of potential for this idea, so when we saw the information about the Prototech programme, we immediately filled in the application form," says O. Bogdanova.

Participation in the programme not only resulted in a working prototype but also in the idea of using recycled aluminium from beverage cans for the operation of the generator. “The greatest benefit is that we have moved from an idea in our minds to real action. The support received gave us great inspiration and encouragement,” says O. Bogdanova.

The next step for the team is to further develop the technology so that it can be put into production and operation. The company is actively working to attract investors to provide the necessary financial support and resources for the further development and commercialisation of the project.

It promotes the development of new business ideas

The Prototech prototyping support programme had two calls. The first one received 29 applications, and the second 77. A total of 30 prototype authors received support of up to 15,000 euros each.

The aim of the Technology Business Centre is to support promising young entrepreneurs in developing their business ideas. In cooperation with universities, the Centre provides support for research, concept development, prototyping and the translation of Latvian scientific achievements into competitive business projects.

In addition to Prototech, the Technology Business Centre also runs the Innovation Academy programme, which has offered support to nearly 100 ideas. The Technology Business Centre is funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism.

The funding for the current programme has been exhausted, and the Technology Business Centre is now being made into the Technology Representation Office of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia in Riga. A call for proposals for a business incubation programme, including support for prototyping, is planned for March this year.

The Prototech prototyping support programme is implemented in cooperation with Latvian science universities and with the support of the Technology Business Centre at the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism in Latvia. Working together towards a competitive Europe.

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