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In the spotlight: JER

Pushing innovation through technology roadmaps. Interview to Dr. Uli Jakob

From his office nested among the historical buildings of Weinstadt’s city centre in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, Dr. Uli Jakob enjoys an especially warm day. “I look in the sun – he says with a great smile – that’s where we find life, energy and energy solutions”. With his small and specialised team at JER (dr. jakob energy research), Uli is busy identifying, studying, profiling and matching factories, their processes and possible solutions originating from a wide range of innovative technologies.

Together with partners EURAC, Solera, CARTIF, DMU, R2M, Ikerlan and CRIT, JER has produced a robust Technology Roadmap for RES, Storage and Waste Recovery for Efficient Manufacturing listing and ranking different types of technologies that can be applied in industrial processes. “We have made efforts – clarifies Uli – to extrapolate detailed information and data for each technology under exam, designing a SWOT (Strengths and Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) matrix for each case, so that we can suggest sufficiently detailed approaches for different cases”. The idea was to build upon a first deliverable from the REEMAIN project, the Analysis of Factory Typologies, which already provided indications in terms of sectors for which technologies would be broadly suitable. “It goes without saying – continues Uli - that not all technologies can apply to all sectors. For instance, foundries have specific requirements at much higher temperatures than other processes. To run our exercise EURAC and JER have developed our own version of a ranking methodology based on MCDA (Multi Criteria Decision Analysis). It has been our starting point, to assign values to the different angles by which we can look at technologies, like technical, economic, marketing or environmental aspects and adapt them to the needs of industrial production. What we are trying to do with the Technology Roadmap is to go deeper in the level of detail, so that we can deliver what we can consider a building block for the REEMAIN tool, which will have to be designed by our colleagues of IES, as something that plant managers can use to make their decisions”.

Technology roadmaps tend to be dynamic documents, especially in areas characterised by fast innovation, which may make updates necessary soon. “We are aware of that and one of the issues we’d like to address is the shift from treating technologies individually, to evaluating combination of different technologies. That’s something at which we will work in the future, hoping to make at least part of the Technology Roadmap public, when we get closer to the completion of our project”.

According to Dr. Jakob, there is still much to be done in energy efficiency for industries: “For some reason the agenda until now has been dominated by the residential context. I believe the work being done in REEMAIN is the first one, at least of this scale, to address the challenges of energy efficiency in industrial environment. That’s also why we pay huge attention to standardisation, through the involvement of a standardisation body, AENOR from Spain. Standardisation is in a way a pre-condition to achieve impact also on the level of policy making, which in our case will come in the long run”.