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In a year turned upside down by the Covid-19 global pandemic, Prysmian Group succeeded in staying focused on its innovation agenda during 2020 even while top management’s main priority pivoted to protecting the health and safety of employees and guaranteeing business continuity.
Four of the group’s “Innovators in Chief” look back on high points of 2020
Chief Innovation and R&D Officer
Apart from the human suffering caused by the pandemic, 2020 may be remembered as a year of tremendous digital acceleration when everyday work schedules were replaced by remote working and new safety procedures. Innovation was key. Companies that had already started on a digital transformation path, like Prysmian Group in 2017, were ready to cope with the disruptive shift to overnight smart working for white collar workers at Milan headquarters, says Stefano Brandinali, Chief Information and Digital Officer.
Chief Information and Digital Officer
The digital acceleration during the pandemic had a direct and beneficial impact on Digital Innovation Projects such as PG Connect (remote presence using augmented reality) and Predictive Quality (using Big Data to improve plant performance).
Digital Strategy & Innovation Lab Director
Pandemic aside, Prysmian’s innovation strategy took a big step forward in 2020 because it adopted a portfolio approach with a Steering Committee coordinating projects being carried out by R&D, the Digital Innovation Lab, Prysmian Electronics, and external “innovation factory” Corporate Hangar (partly-owned by Prysmian).
In spite of the pandemic, Prysmian made progress in innovating in each of the three areas that are important for the company: the energy transition, digitalization, and sustainability.
Prysmian’s decade-long research effort to engineer more sustainable cable solutions for the energy transition came to fruition last year in two major milestones. The biggest is a massive 1.8B€ award for an underground interconnector known as the German energy corridors that will deliver electricity from windfarms in the North Sea to cities and factories hundreds of kilometers away in the south. The required underground lines for the three SuedLink, SuedOstLink and A-Nord projects will use new 525kV HVDC cables technology. The German Corridors project will see deployment of the Group’s innovative P-Laser 525 kV HVDC cable, the first 100% recyclable, eco-sustainable and high-performance cable technology
R&D Energy Director
Secondly, Prysmian set a new world record in December for both depth (over 900 meters) and length of undersea AC cable (174 kilometers) with the installation of a 150V three-core submarine cable with synthetic armor connecting the Greek island of Crete with the mainland. This is an import sustainability milestone because this cable’s synthetic armor makes it lighter and therefore more sustainable because its installation consumes less energy. The synthetic armor technology is planned for use in new installations at up to 3,000 meters.
In terms of digitalization, a highlight for 2020 was the world-first installation of the new Scirocco Extreme 180-micron optical fibre cable in Germany for Stadtwerke Landau a.d. Isar, allowing several households and companies in Landau to benefit from a FTTx and 5G network. Its small size enables project managers to lower the cost of installing new networks. Prysmian was the first in the space to launch 180-micron fiber in December 2019, 10 years after it launched the first 200-micron bend-insensitive optical fiber cable in 2009.
Another highlight last year was supporting Dutch operator KPN in a pilot project involving a fibre optic network containing 90% recycled plastic, and using 50% the amount of material, allowing for major savings in the use of raw materials and reduced spending.
Lastly, in the area of sustainability, Prysmian was recognized for the second year in a row by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as an industry benchmark with a 100% score in innovation management.
Looking ahead to 2021, innovation should become an even more integral part of Prysmian’s business strategy than ever, given the lessons learned from the pandemic in 2020. An increased commitment to new product development will see introduction of innovative solutions for interconnectors, offshore windfarms, electric mobility, energy management, hyperscale datacenters and 5G deployments. Digital innovation can play a meaningful part of the group’s medium-term strategy.