INTERVIEW WITH MANUEL CASTILLO (COO) FROM QPV PARTICIPANT IN I’MNOVATION 2020
“WORKING WITH ACCIONA HAS BEEN THE BEST EXPERIENCE WE’VE HAD PROFESSIONALLY” – MANUEL CASTILLO COO OF QPV
We met with Manuel Castillo, COO of Qualifying Photovoltaics (QPV), a startup participant in the 2020 I‘MNOVATION Program, to hear about his experience working with ACCIONA.
“Working with ACCIONA has been the best professional experience we have had“ – Manuel Castillo COO of QPV
TO START, WE‘D LIKE YOU TO TELL US WHEN AND IN WHICH CHALLENGE YOU PARTICIPATED IN THE ACCIONA I‘MNOVATION PROGRAM.
We participated in the 2020 I‘MNOVATION Program and the challenge was “Advanced Technologies for Asset Operation and Maintenance“.
HOW WAS THE PILOT DEVELOPMENT?
The development was quite positive. Initially we proposed a very ambitious and very focused development plan to generate real impact on ACCIONA Energía‘s photovoltaic installations. Throughout the project, thanks to the involvement of all the actors, because we really loved ACCIONA‘s involvement with these pilots, we were able to carry out the entire work plan. Initially it was said that the possibilities of the work plan were quite ambitious and it would be difficult to get there, but we were able to reach all the points.
The results at the end were quite quantifiable. We set some KPIs, which gave very good results and we all finished very happy. And of course, it was a great learning opportunity.
“We loved ACCIONA‘s involvement in these pilots […] it was a great learning opportunity“ – Manuel Castillo COO of QPV
WHAT HAS BEEN FOR YOU THE PASS BY I‘MNOVATION? HAS IT CHANGED YOUR WORKING METHOD?
Yes, it definitely changed our way of working. It must also be understood that we are a spin off of the Solar Energy Institute of the Polytechnic University of Madrid. Therefore, we are a very I + D–linked company, in fact, 40% of our staff are doctors or on their way to becoming doctors and now we are participating in 3 research projects. We are a company that is already used to these I + D procedures and methodologies. On the other hand, we also work with large customers in the operational part, and we were used to the functioning of large companies. But of course, that has nothing to do with entering an Innovation Program of a large corporation like ACCIONA. The fact of entering an Innovation Program poses it in another way, it poses the challenge of taking that I + D to a measurable business that generates both technical and economic impact by understanding the benefits that you are producing.
Sometimes focusing on very specific points of optimization and losing the business vision can make us not show all the value that our solution generates, and startups, in general, generate very specific solutions and it is complicated to convey the message of your value proposition, and this Program has helped us a lot in that. This has made us feel more comfortable and happier from the beginning to the end of the Program.
WHEN YOU WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PROGRAM YOU SUDDENLY FOUND YOURSERVES IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC, HOW DID COVID AFFECT THE PILOT? DID YOU HAVE TO PIVOT YOUR SOLUTION?
We were fortunately impacted very little. Obviously the work was harder, but since it was a solution that did not require us to go to ACCIONA Energy‘s physical facilities, since it was a tool for analysis from the data obtained in solar plants with a system of diagnosis, predictive maintenance and fault detection, it affected the technical part little.
Certainly, we all went through that confinement at home in the beginning of the pandemic. Later, although all the technical work was done remotely, it is not the same to have periodic meetings, to be able to see each other physically, to be able to organize certain things… It was hard. We all suffered that emotional burden that was generated by being locked up and not being able to share that project progress more easily.
“The main lesson learned is the focus on results to the business“ – Manuel Castillo COO of QPV
SEEING IT NOW WITH A LITTLE DISTANCE, WHAT ARE THE LESSONS LEARNED DURING THE PROGRAM?
The main lesson learned is the focus on results to the business, that is, the ability to think from a point of view of the sale of the results. That is, how we give those technical solutions, how we focus on what is really producing added value and how we are able to maximize that added value. What causes a technical benefit, and also a great benefit as you sell that solution and how it goes from being something innovative to something that can be transformed into a commercial product quantifying those results.
“ACCIONA is the most advanced company in the sector, not only in Spain, but worldwide. And from our experience, it is also one of the companies that best manages its assets” – Manuel Castillo COO of QPV
HOW HAS ACCIONA HELPED YOU GROW AS A STARTUP?
First of all, I would like to point out that, in my opinion, ACCIONA Energy is the most advanced company in the sector, not only in Spain, but worldwide. And from our experience, it is also one of the companies that best manages its assets. Simply working under these conditions is already an added value. Facing the challenge of improving what ACCIONA Energy already has (which is quite good) was a stimulating and difficult challenge that made us grow. All this, combined with a very experienced team with a lot of eagerness to take this project forward on the part of ACCIONA made us feel supported in all aspects throughout the pilot. And now that we continue working with ACCIONA Energy, we still feel the same.
The objective of our solution was to make an integration. We had to get integrated into ACCIONA Energy‘s systems and integrate ACCIONA Energy with ours. From the first day, it was a collaborative project. For us, working with ACCIONA has been the best experience we have had professionally.
“Working near ACCIONA is already an added value“ – Manuel Castillo COO of QP
DO YOU CONSIDER THAT ACCIONA’S EXPERTS HAVE ADDED A DIFFERENTIATING VALUE DURING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROGRAM?
I definitely think that working with ACCIONA’s experts has been key. Our pilot’s goal was to analyze data for performance optimization through a calculation engine that had to be integrated into ACCIONA’s infrastructure. To coordinate the integration, experts from both sides with the will to do it and do it well were required. We saw that from the first day.
ACCIONA Energía, in the field of solar energy, is one of the pioneers in the world and has assets with great value data, such as plants with more than 20 years, which means that ACCIONA Energía’s experts are highly experienced, knowledgeable people with a lot of experience in the world of solar energy, as well as in control centers. The Renewable Energies Control Center ACCIONA Energía (CECOER) is also one of the world’s most advanced and pioneering centers, so working with ACCIONA Energía experts involved in the project from the beginning and willing to do so has allowed us to learn a lot.
YOUR CASE WAS A SUCCESSFUL ONE IN THE PROGRAM, IN FACT, YOU CONTINUE WORKING WITH THE TEAM OF ACCIONA ENERGÍA, CAN YOU TELL US HOW THE PROJECT HAS CONTINUED AND WHAT WOULD YOU HIGHLIGHT OF THIS COLLABORATION?
Well, we still have a similar philosophy to the one we had at the beginning of the I‘MNOVATION Program, but something much more mature now. Indeed, it is very interesting the way we are evolving. With this continuation, ACCIONA is beginning to see results and we have total support from the business side. It‘s not just about working well, being happy working together, but facilitating the achievement of these benefits and improving together.
FINALLY, WE WOULD LIKE YOU TO ADDRESS THE STARTUPS THAT ARE APPLYING TO THE CHALLENGES OF THIS CALL OF I’MNOVATION WHICH CLOSES ON FEBRUARY 15. WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS WOULD YOU MAKE TO YOUR COLLEAGUES WHO WILL PARTICIPATE IN THIS EDITION OF I’MNOVATION?
I would tell all of them to look for an ambitious but realistic project, thinking that they have six months to carry out the pilot, and that six months pass very quickly. That they are going to work with great experts and people who are very eager to move forward, so focus on specific points where they can maximize innovation and benefit. And, above all, make the most of the opportunity, they are going to work with a very capable company, very advanced at the technological level in renewable energies and regenerative infrastructures.
I would tell all these startups to take the opportunity to grow their business, that idea they have, that usually startups come with a specific and relatively mature technical idea and you will realize that the business has a different approach, another approach. And that way of focusing it, that way of presenting it, you will learn it in that program, surely.
In short, it has been a great experience for us both to participate in the I‘MNOVATION Program and to continue working with ACCIONA Energía, to see how it has continued and how there has been these continuous desires to work together. We will always remember it.