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Best concepts from across the globe to support innovation at PKN ORLEN


12 Apr 2016


Innovation & Enterprise

PKN ORLEN has announced the winners of its crowdsourcing contest, the first global project of that scale launched by a Polish company. From among  proposals submitted by companies, universities and research centres from all over the world, the best three solutions were selected. The winners are from Poland, India and Germany. The winners each received prizes of EUR 10,000 and were invited to discuss further cooperation with PKN ORLEN. In accordance with the objectives of the contest, the selected concepts are to improve the energy efficiency of production processes at the PKN ORLEN refinery.

Those who proposed the most interesting and innovative technological solutions for efficient recovery and utilisation of low-temperature heat from distillation columns are Poland’s PWPO-T PROMONT, the Polish-Swedish consortium leader,  Guha Industries Canada, an engineering design company from India specialising in chemical engineering and ILK Dresden, a German research centre.

“The level of interest in the contest shown by innovators from all over the world as well as the high quality of the proposed solutions went beyond our expectations and confirmed that crowdsourcing is an effective tool to quickly obtain innovations. We are particularly happy that one of the best concepts was developed by a Polish contestant. This fits perfectly with our approach to innovation. We believe that, as Poland’s largest company, we are not only obliged to search for new technological solutions supporting our business, but also to encourage innovative growth of the entire Polish economy,” says Wojciech Jasiński, President of the Management Board of PKN ORLEN.

A multi-stage expert analysis carried out by PKN ORLEN employees evaluated each submitted concept’s degree of technological innovation, completeness, economic viability, and implementation and development potential. Each contestant’s experience with projects of similar scale was also taken into account. Both commercial solutions and prototype technologies requiring further R&D efforts were considered. The shortlisted concepts are technologically diverse and, when implemented, should allow significant flexibility in the recovery of heat and generation of electricity, steam and cooling, each widely used in refining processes.

“Currently, energy costs account for over 70% of all expenses in the downstream segment. For oil companies in Europe, the cost of energy is and will remain a measure of competitiveness. By addressing the issue of low-temperature heat application, we enter an area which is not yet explored around the world, but which will become a serious challenge for major industrial plants in the coming years. It should be noted that in the ORLEN Group alone the proposed solutions can be applied at as many as seven process units. Thanks to this and a number of other ongoing initiatives, PKN ORLEN can become a leader of innovation in this field,” said Krystian Pater, Member of the Management Board, Production.

To support the format of an open innovation contest aiming to garner the best ideas from all over the word, modern communication tools were used. Apart from utilising NineSigma – a leading open innovation services provider with more than 2,5 million network members, which has run contests for NASA, GE, BASF and many other companies – PKN ORLEN also announced the competition in international and social media. As a result, news of the contest reached some 250,000 profiled recipients all over the world through conventional media and close to 2,5 million users through Twitter.

NineSigma Europe CEO Rick Wielens said, “We are pleased to connect PKN ORLEN to top solution providers around the world and in their own country to advance innovation in this critical technology area. This contest is an excellent example of how open innovation can help companies like PKN ORLEN address their most challenging technology issues that ultimately can benefit society as a whole.” 

If subsequent negotiation stages yield positive results, PKN ORLEN plans to utilise the experience acquired thanks to the project in further open innovation initiatives designed both to discover new technologies and to strengthen the Company’s innovation culture.