– Poles live on “ecological credit” – for four months we have been using more natural resources than can be renewed in a year – says Małgorzata Jarczyk-Zuber, Chief ESG Innovation Officer at ING Bank Śląski. He immediately adds that this environmental debt is very difficult to pay off, which is why it is so important to facilitate the work of scientists and young entrepreneurs who create eco-innovations in their start-ups. In the first edition of the ING Grant Program, they developed projects corresponding to the 7th UN Sustainable Development Goal, related to clean and available energy.
For ING Bank Śląski, environmental protection is a key area – the bank itself departed from financing coal-related projects in 2015, and in the following years gave priority to supporting solutions related to ecology. As a consequence, the Grant Program was born – a competition addressed to start-ups and young scientists who had not only an idea, but also enthusiasm to create innovation for the climate.
The first edition brought almost two hundred applications – solutions that, as Małgorzata Jarczyk-Zuber says, have passed the testing phase or are already operating on the market. The best teams were awarded cash prizes (the winner received PLN 400,000, and the prize pool was as much as PLN 1 million!), As well as substantive support in the field of, inter alia, modern business models, or learning what is perhaps the most difficult – convincing others to your ideas. On the Megabit Bomb stage, you could meet the winners of the first edition of the competition, i.e. solutions related to saving or efficient energy acquisition.
The first of the awarded projects did not focus on energy generation, but on its reasonable use – and in one of the key issues for today’s world. It is, of course, about cooling – this sector is responsible for as much as 27 percent. all greenhouse gases. As the representative of Dynamic Air Cooling, Pavel Panasjuk, calculated, today we cool almost everything: houses, cars, food, but also medicines, and even internet infrastructure – everything without which it would be difficult to function in the modern world. The scale of the problem is huge – only the United States uses more energy for cooling than all of Africa for everything! Another reason why the cooling issue translates into global warming is the use of freons – a substance of 4,000 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide.
The DAC idea solves virtually all these problems: the Polish-Ukrainian team has developed a cooling unit that can almost immediately reduce the temperature by up to 90 ° C, while consuming 30 percent. less electricity and emitting half the CO2 – and all this without the use of CFCs! The secret lies in producing – of course under controlled conditions – mini-tornadoes to facilitate cooling. Thanks to the support of ING, the developers from DAC want to create ready-made cooling systems for sectors related to the production and storage of food. And although the competition in this market is fierce, the DAC solution may soon “beat everything” – their advantage is a significant reduction in the total cost of cooling.
Four years ago, a group of scientists from the energy, HVAC and IT industries and managers from investment banking created a start-up Wind Panel. Their idea of obtaining electricity from wind is closely related to the shape of … the fence: specialists from Opole have developed a structure that can be installed both in the form of a fence and panels protecting the last technical floors on buildings, or on the lanes separating railway lines or motorways . The Wind Panel will allow you to replace traditional fences with ones that generate electricity – and in a very aesthetic form: gray and black elements make them neutral for the space, thanks to which the landscape will not be destroyed by structures unpleasant to the eye.
The prototype fence of Opole artists was built of many vertical rotors, looking like traditional rails, able to generate electricity even at a low wind speed. According to Tomasz Gruszka from the Wind Panel, the existing wind installations are adapted to work when the wind is blowing at a minimum speed of 10-12 m / s. The project he contributes, however, focuses on much lower speeds, while eliminating the problem of the high cost of the installation. The small shape, innovative method of operation of the Wind Panel gives hope for the popularization of this method of obtaining electricity, as it is the case with photovoltaics today – even in countries such as Poland, where low winds (4-6 m / s) prevail. Importantly, it is a supplementary installation, not “instead of” something – it is supposed to cost and generate the same amount of energy as photovoltaic panels, balancing the possibilities also in the winter months, i.e. when there is less sun and there is no shortage of wind.
Huge windmills, which appear more and more often in the Polish landscape, are based on a horizontal turbine scheme – it is a relatively cheap solution, but so far struggling with certain problems related to the “wind supply”. We do not yet know how to efficiently and cheaply store energy that we overproduce on windy days and which can be used on quiet days. Silesian Wind Generator – a team of scientists, students and employees of the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice – decided to focus on the distributed energy model and return to the traditional, oldest vertical turbine. Under the leadership of dr hab. Eng. Zbigniew Buliński, they created a prototype of a home wind turbine that is able to produce and store electricity regardless of the power grid – in this way, virtually each of the six million households in Poland will be able to install micro wind farms.
Taking advantage of the fact that the supply of wind in Poland is quite uneven – we have the most wind in the winter months – and in combination with a standard-sized photovoltaic installation, the SWG project will be able to provide every household with continuous access to clean energy. The goal of Silesian scientists is also the necessity to reduce costs – hence the return to the idea of a turbine with a vertical axis of rotation, built at an affordable price, being at the same time a quiet, safe and highly efficient structure. Tomasz Krysiński, a representative of SWG, admits that when designing this installation, scientists had the goal of democratizing access to energy – their turbines will ensure that the end user will have access to electricity, because the “raw material” – wind – will never run out.
During the debate conducted at Bombie Megabitowa by Dr. Maciej Kawecki, the winners of the first edition of the ING Grant Program emphasized that the most important thing to be successful is to believe in your own abilities and start working on the idea as soon as possible. The preparation of the first prototypes, as Pavel Panasjuk said, takes even several months, and the testing stage can bring many failures and last almost forever. The DAC representative did not hide that their first construction … exploded, flooding the freshly painted laboratory with blue oil, but they did not give up on further improvement. The results, however, may exceed the expectations of the creators themselves – this was the case with the Wind Panel. The representative of the start-up revealed that despite the initial skepticism that it was impossible to produce cheap electricity from a small wind, the first prototypes were able to work with such efficiency that the electronic systems used did not withstand and burned out.
The first failures and successive successes would not be possible without adequate support and patronage. The ING Grant Program helped the teams not only to ensure financial security to continue working on their projects, but also to teach them how to convince others – their patrons, colleagues or contractors – to their own ideas. The finalists agreed that while times are becoming more innovation-friendly, some companies still do not feel ready to cooperate extensively with companies such as Wind Panel, DAC or SWG. Nevertheless, it is worth taking the initiative – and going out into the world right away. As Gruszka said, many people who have great ideas give up on them, even though they do not even realize how many people and companies are waiting for their – not yet existing – solution.
As Małgorzata Jarczyk-Zuber announced, next editions of the ING Grant Program will take place in the next three years. In the nearest bank, the bank invites you to submit ideas related to sustainable production and consumption – it is, among others, o tackling the problem of supply chain efficiency, reducing its carbon footprint, as well as reducing waste production (especially in households, which account for most of this production) and food waste. Receipt of applications on the Program website lasts until October 15 this year.