Three tech startups have secured $20 million in funding from National Grid Partners to transform the way utilities and other enterprises manage vast physical infrastructure.
The funding was announced during the NextGrid Alliance Summit and will see National Grid’s corporate venture and innovation arm invest in startups Exodigo, Sensat and Visionary.ai.
“Utilities have long been known for size and reliability but need access to new solutions to better serve customers and the environment,” said Lisa Lambert, chief technology and innovation officer at National Grid and founder and president of National Grid Partners.
“NGP is challenging the status quo by investing in pioneering startups and sharing strategies across the Alliance to tackle industry challenges. By uniting breakthrough startup technology with the scale of utilities, we are able to digitise, decentralise and decarbonise the planet faster and more affordably.”
With the investments, NGP has backed a total of 40 startups dedicated to combatting climate change across a range of applications, from cybersecurity to customer-focused solutions.
With operations in Palo Alto, California and Tel Aviv, Israel, Exodigo uses advanced sensors and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the quality and accuracy of underground maps crucial for design, construction and mineral discovery.
Exodigo has deployed its mapping solutions at National Grid sites in New York to provide project teams with complete, precise knowledge of buried assets.
According to the startup, while traditional methods of underground mapping draw conclusions based on one or two types of sensors and visual hints, Exodigo is the first to employ multi-sensor fusion and process the signals with AI. They liken the approach to running an MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound all at once and combining the results into a single source of truth.
The density and speed of data collection and processing enables Exodigo to identify more buried assets than other subsurface locating and surveying methods – finding 20-50% more utilities than alternatives, according to analysis from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Technology Advancements and Gaps in Underground Safety 2022 report.
“We’ve proven consistently that our technology discovers more buried utilities than any other alternative. These additional, hidden lines are often the root cause of safety issues, budget overruns, and massive schedule delays, which contribute to environmental damage and increase the carbon footprint of major infrastructure projects,” said Exodigo co-founder and CEO Jeremy Suard.
National Grid has worked with Sensat on major infrastructure projects in the UK, where the startup’s visualisation software platform has streamlined the planning process and reduced costs.
The funds will help Sensat to drive digital automation in infrastructure projects in the energy, rail and telecommunications sectors, which have traditionally lacked the productivity gains that have been a by-product of the rapid digital adoption that has occurred in other sectors.
According to Sensat, their tech helps teams visualise and collaborate on high-resolution, multi-layered digital twins, resulting in faster project completion, fewer missteps, lower costs and superior project performance.
Sensat has also stated that the investment will augur a prominent role for digital twin technology in the smarter management of utility infrastructure projects.
Sensat CEO James Dean said: “We are delighted to welcome National Grid Partners as a shareholder and look forward to serving utility customers in the UK, US and beyond, bringing a new era in digital automation for the utility and wider infrastructure sectors.”
Ian Cooper, head of European venture capital at National Grid Partners, added: “Many of the world’s largest infrastructure projects already use Sensat to digitise the planning, development and management of their infrastructure projects and enhance team collaboration – eliminating the largely manual processes and data silos that characterise traditional project management. We hope to see Sensat become the leading digital twin solution for infrastructure projects in the utility industry and beyond.”
Based in Jerusalem, Israel, Visionary.ai has developed a software image signal processor (ISP) that enables cameras to achieve next-generation image quality even in near-total darkness.
The company’s AI algorithms aim to improve the quality of images and videos taken from cameras at the edge, in real time – touted by the startup as a game-changer for industries such as road safety, medical imaging and critical infrastructure security.
”We launched National Grid Partners four years ago to help us ‘look over the hill’ and bring new startup technology into National Grid so we can meet the changing needs of our customers,” said John Pettigrew, Group CEO of National Grid.
“We’re on a mission to fully decarbonise energy, and National Grid is a fantastic platform to deploy startups at scale to benefit utilities – like those in the Alliance – and ultimately combat climate change.”