Smart Power Networks

Published: 5 May 2021

Smart Power Networks (SMPnet Ltd) is a technology start-up company that developed a smart controller to help Distribution Network Operators control and optimise their network assets.

Following a Digital and Data: Innovator Challenge call, the Energy Launchpad team worked with SMPnet across a range of challenges. They needed to develop clear value propositions for two key user groups, better understand the use cases for the technology and set-out their competitive value within the emerging Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES) landscape for value-based network controllers. In addition we helped them develop a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering and pricing model. And finally helped identify partnership and investor opportunities.

The Innovation

SMPnet offer one of the few solutions on the market that can provide real-time dynamic control of multiple different assets on a milli-second basis in a coordinated manner, providing data insights to these stakeholders from its integrated AI technology.

Since assets essentially operate in isolation, there is little communication between them – making informed decisions challenging. The SMPnet controller allows personnel to execute decisions across different assets based on other assets activitie,s which allow them to achieve an optimal solution.

The Challenge

SLES are an emerging market, however Network Operators are already exploring system architectures to provide optimisation of multiple and sophisticated assets. SMPnet’s controller is a key component in providing these Network Operators with the control required to enable the SLES market to develop.

There was a requirement to gain insights into the problems, needs and priorities of Network Operators to position SMPnet’s solution to help build customer confidence and encourage greater adoption.

This consumer insight work would support the development of the design blueprints for a MVP SaaS product, and understand the value being created.

The Solution

Energy Systems Catapult is home to the Energy Launchpad, which provides carefully selected innovators with tailored business incubation and acceleration support to help address barriers to growth, de-risk innovation, scale-up the business and secure investment.



Incubator

Tailored support for selected SMEs utilising the Catapult assets and capabilities, and delivery partner offerings, such as business model development, energy system integration assessment, consumer insights guidance, digital fitness, market testing and validation, investor readiness, specialist advice, as well as identification for Acceleration support.


Energy Launchpad started this project by hosting a workshop with SMPnet to identify use cases. From this we delivered:

  • Customer Value Propositions: To understand the specific value of smart network controllers to two key user groups:  Engineering and Procurement Contractors (EPCs) and industrial energy users.
  • User Research: Comprehensive desk, market and user research was carried out to stress test their business models. The market research involved comprehensive semi-structured surveys to understand target groups’ needs, current procurement methods and factors they consider valuable from a controller.
  • Business Model Innovation: After the initial research, we hosted another workshop with SMPnet to identify assumptions within their business model. We then conducted additional market research to validate these assumptions before presenting a revised business model, value proposition and developing a Minimum Viable Product SaaS offering.

Impact

  • Spoke to over 40 stakeholders to build a clear picture of the value SMPnet could offer.
  • Framed SMPnet’s key offerings to ensure they were delivering the right messaging to the right people.
  • Identified potential routes to market and highlighted key benefits to overcome the challenge of selling a sophisticated real time controller.
  • Provided forward recommendations such as creating a common data repository and exposing a well-documented REST API.
  • Validated the energy SaaS business model to achieve a more favourable balance between risk and reward.
  • Unlocked potential business opportunities and built SMP’s new business pipeline.
  • Introduced SMPnet to Investors to fund the SaaS development.

Next Steps

  • Follow on recommendations have been provided for additional research; for example, into customers’ willingness to pay the new pricing model.
  • Continuing to refine the value proposition and test assumptions through additional interviews.
  • Follow-on meetings between potential customers and SMPnet Ltd.
  • Support to raise capital to fund the development of the SaaS model.