Interview |Tomasz Borkowski
COO and Member of the Management Board
MindMade

20 January 2020

MindMade was established in 2010 and became part of WB Group when it was just a start-up. The company was founded with the mission to provide communication solutions based on a multichannel concept, able to provide the robustness demanded by the industrial sector. Its activities today include design and production of electronic devices and systems, intended both for special markets (homeland security, public administration, military) and advanced industries.

WB Group started out by providing solutions to the defense sector and evolved steadily in the energy industry - how is your portfolio split at the moment?

Most of our revenue still comes from the defense sector but the goal is to reach a 50/50 split between the two. We are growing very fast in energy and our engineers are involved in developing solutions for both sectors. MindMade is an excellent example in this regard.

The defense market is very lucrative but limited compared to the civil one. For a company like ours it is a natural evolution to expand, as innovations first applied in defense often find their use in the civil market eventually.

MindMade recently introduced SARSA, a new solution meant to serve the electricity transmission and distribution sector. What market need does this innovation address?

Indeed, we are just finalizing development of SARSA together with our partners PGE Dystrybucja and Apator Elkomtech. In brief, this is one of our answers to what a smart grid can be: a grid that has built-in intelligence and can react without human intervention. Through this we are addressing two stringent market needs in Poland.

 

Our electric lines are built over the ground, so in cases of extreme climate conditions such as hurricanes, large areas of the country are in danger of running out of power. The damage is sometimes so severe that it can take weeks to fix.

 

The other incentive is the fact that Polish DSOs are now forced to improve SAIDI and SAIFI indicators, which measure how many outages occurred per year per customer served and their cumulative duration.

How specifically can SARSA help reduce the frequency or duration of these power outages?

Typically, the control automatically shuts down the line when it detects a short circuit and an external intervention is required to repair it. By comparison, the solution we came up with identifies autonomously the place where the short circuit occurred and in just a few seconds cuts off the ill division of the line. The system automatically restores power to as many customers as possible - they only notice blinking lights for a few seconds.

 

The solution we came up with identifies autonomously the place where the short circuit occurred and in just a few seconds cuts off the ill division of the line.

 

You presented this solution as an element of a smart grid at EuroPOWER – has Poland been progressing in its development of intelligent energy infrastructure?

The answer is unfortunately no. The biggest problem I notice is that Poland does not have a long term strategy for smart grids - there is no clear definition in place about what a smart grid is, and what objectives we should be pursuing.

The concept was relatively easy in the past, when you had a few electricity providers and energy was flowing in a single direction. But now we have new sources of energy, more and more scattered and energy needs to flow in all directions. That’s why the word “smart” comes up, because this new scenario requires intelligence, an ability to gather information and exert proper control. As specialists in communication we understand that this will not occur without modern communication solutions.

Would you say that the community is generally reluctant to adopt new technologies? What are some common obstacles you are noticing?

A common obstacle we encounter is that procurement teams want to see a track record of previous deployments, because they want to remove any risks. But with innovation there is no previous record, we are talking about something that has not been done before. With innovation sometimes you lose yourself and need to try a few ways until you get it right, you cannot guarantee 100% success from the beginning, which is unfortunately what they want.

 

There is great interest towards new technologies but actual implementation is not reflective of this. DSOs bear the responsibility for continuous energy supply and this drives them to behave conservatively. It often seems that they are not prepared for innovations.

 

Even so you managed to get on board the biggest DSO on the market. What do you see as a means to overcome these obstacles?

We look for brave customers. Thinking of the first project we developed as a start-up, the secret to success was the DSO’s willingness to change the structure of their organization. They built a completely parallel structure for innovative projects and hired people who were responsible specifically for innovation and new ideas.

There were hurdles to overcome, but people were allowed to make mistakes and change decisions if they were wrong. Risks were accepted and managed - without this innovation is not possible.

Going forward, where do you plan to focus your efforts?

We are in close contact with DSOs, looking for people who are aware of their problems and are open to discuss them. Since there is no nation-wide plan, we try to identify needs ourselves and work with potential customers to find solutions.

On a group level, the goal is to sync our marketing efforts and introduce our innovations to the world. We are already present in defense markets globally, and now is the time to grow our reputation as a partner of choice for the energy sector as well.

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