The Enterprise Europe Network helps company win €3 million funding for a project that aims to revolutionise power distribution in rural areas.
“Teamwork is my religion” is the personal mantra of Santi Martínez Farrero, who has served as CEO of Barcelona’s Estabanell Energia since January 2010. Since joining the company, Santi has helped the family-owned utility to diversify production and expand.
While Santi’s innovative approach to growth has paid off, he is the first to admit that there have been bumps along the road to success. Like when the company failed to win EU funding for a green electricity project after scrambling to apply on a short deadline with no outside help or insights into the process.
Like all successful businessmen, rather than being defeated by setbacks, Santi wanted to learn from them. The following year, he went to his nearest Enterprise Europe Network branch at ACCIÓ, the Catalan Agency for Business Competitiveness. He had read about the Network in business newsletters and was interested in their advisory and support services for innovative SMEs seeking to access EU funding.
Network expert Riánsares López and her colleagues met with Santi several times to find out more about the company and its research ambitions. They also kept an eye out for relevant EU funding opportunities in the areas of Research and Innovation to ensure that he would have plenty of time to prepare a high-quality proposal.
After helping Santi pick a project topic and funding scheme related to ‘smart’ electricity grids, the Network team helped him to perfect the proposal, and arranged for Santi to meet with Spanish experts on EU funding programmes at a local event. Several drafts were reviewed and improvements were suggested until it was up to standard.
Thanks to a thorough preparation, Santi’s application was a hit, winning €3 million in funding for the groundbreaking Smart Rural Grid research project. It aims to deliver locally produced electricity to rural areas via local market electricity management, at a low cost to residents and their environment. Now in its third year, the project is being tested in pilot areas.
After it wraps up in 2017, the plan is to develop smart grids on a commercial basis, starting in Germany where rural power networks are overloaded but there is a large amount of renewable generation from solar energy.
“Thanks to the Enterprise Europe Network and the knowledge gained from this experience, we will be able to turn our idea into a commercial success,” said Santi.