03 December 2021

A hackathon to decarbonise Renault Group plants

It’s often said that the environmental transition is a marathon, not a sprint. Nevertheless, Renault Group has upped the pace by organising its first hackathon focused on industrial decarbonisation – held on site at the Flins Refactory.

The challenge was considerable: around 100 contestants had just three days to come up with an idea to enable the Group to accelerate the shift to carbon neutrality at all its industrial sites. It was a race against the clock for the participants of the Hackathon CO₂ Industry, organised in partnership with Google Cloud and with the assistance of open innovation specialist Startup Inside. Four projects were ultimately selected at the end of the collaborative challenge, with a view for deployment at plants as early as 2022.

The Renaulution transformation therefore fully resonated throughout this unique project, which has illustrated the Group’s capacity to harness new working methods from the world of start-ups and come up with ideas that are both innovative and environmentally friendly.

Read on to find out about a hackathon like no other.

The sun was just rising at Renault Group’s iconic Flins site on 23 November when the shuttle bus from Paris arrived, carrying around 100 contestants. To reach the room where the hackathon took place, the participants were thrown straight into day-to-day factory life, walking down the wide aisles and past assembly lines where workers were already operating machinery. Bringing innovators and industry together was just one of the focuses of the Hackathon CO₂ Industry, and this image fully symbolises the technological turning point taken by Renault Group as it pivots to a “tech-industry” model. Ultimately, the goal of modernising the industrial landscape goes hand in hand with the decarbonisation objective.

This was the central focus of this unprecedented hackathon, held within the plant itself: bringing together stakeholders from diverse sectors to work together on solutions to decarbonise industrial sites.

Opening up the industry to new and innovative practices

Hackathon CO₂ Industry contestants included not only over 30 companies and start-ups (mostly involved in energy, digital, education and industry), but also students – a first for the sector.

Open innovation isn’t just for start-ups. The industry itself is also undergoing an in-depth transformation in order to reinvent itself and anticipate the future. This collaborative challenge – organised with the support of Startup Inside, a specialist in open innovation, artificial intelligence and intrapreneurship – is breaking all the traditional rules, replacing them with new working methods for plants. The CEO and Cofounder of Startup Inside, Damien Gromier, is well-versed in organising this type of event. He underlined the unique nature of this hackathon, organised by an industrial stakeholder with the aim of reducing carbon emissions.

This unique hackathon clearly demonstrated open innovation – 30 companies and start-ups were brought together in 13 teams to find solutions to cut plants’ CO₂ emissions. And it proved that collaboration is crucial to achieving these objectives.

Damien Gromier, CEO and Cofounder of Startup Inside

Kick-off of the Hackathon CO₂ Industry on November 23

Teaming up with the cloud

Participants were put into 13 project teams and given three days to develop tangible solutions based on five specific themes:

  • Cutting energy consumption at industrial facilities
  • Enhancing buildings’ thermal performance
  • Increasing low carbon heat production
  • Accelerating the digital transformation to boost energy performance
  • Imagining new and more sustainable industrial models

Each of the projects had to make use of cloud technology provided by Google Cloud, a partner to the event and to Renault Group in its industrial transformation. This technological partnership covers numerous projects, including the development of a software agent based on artificial intelligence that aims to reduce the energy consumed by data centres, so it can be reinjected into plants’ paint workshops. These AI solutions could help reduce plants’ energy consumption by up to 20%.

Google is thoroughly committed to sustainable development and has long applied its technologies in climate initiatives. Renault Group and Google Cloud share the same outlook for sustainable development, and we are proud to encourage the advancement of innovative and ambitious projects to help decarbonise our future.

Jacqueline Pynadath, Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Google Cloud EMEA

Four projects from the hackathon to be deployed at Renault Group as early as 2022

After three days of intensive brainstorming, with advice from the numerous experts and mentors on hand, contestants had precisely four minutes to pitch their projects and win over a jury made up of managers from Google Cloud and Renault Group. But that’s not all there was also a large public audience, with 150 people watching on site and several hundred more tuning in online. The Alpine F1 Team sustainable development team was also part of the jury when it gave out additional prizes in the name of the brand: the audience award and a special prize for the most innovative project.

The jury was initially expected to recognise three projects but, during its deliberations, ultimately picked two teams as joint winners of the third prize – so four projects, rather than three, will soon be rolled out in plants! Here are the winners:

  • First prize: Team No.3 – The “Kairos” project: developing a digital platform to optimise the start-up and shutdown periods of paint drying ovens. This solution would generate additional electricity for the Douai plant worth an estimated €230,000 per year, and the project could be rolled out to other facilities.

  • Second prize: Team No.11 – “CO₂ Advisor” project: creating a tool to measure CO₂ emissions from production activities in real time. This application would give operators greater visibility of energy consumption in their workshops.
  • Joint third prize:

Team No.4 – “Adjust’Air” project: developing a technical solution to optimise ventilation and air filtration systems at production facilities. This tool would enable a threefold decrease of energy consumption from air extraction.

Team No.6 – “Sieren” project: implementing a dashboard to model and monitor plants’ electricity consumption and incorporate meteorological parameters and energy consumption in plant schedules.

Final pitches ceremony to the jury on November 25

A boost for low carbon

With this hackathon, Renault Group has shown that a new form of collaboration is possible between major industry stakeholders, start-ups and students – and at a factory, no less! The Group plays a key role as an emulator, enabling these different participants to gain traction in the “tech-industry” landscape. This is a new, value-creating industrial landscape where each partnership is highly strategic, with industry giants like Google supporting the creation of decarbonisation projects, such as those selected at the end of the hackathon. The launch of an open innovation competition like Hackathon CO₂ Industry has also provided an additional boost for the transformation of industrial sites, offering us a glimpse of a more sustainable and collaborative environment where open innovation and technology can create a new dimension for industry.

Factories at the forefront of innovation to cut carbon

Renault Group presented its new environmental strategy this year, with an ambitious roadmap: reaching carbon neutrality at its plants in Europe and halving the CO₂ emissions of its plants worldwide by 2030. To do so, it intends to make the decarbonisation of its infrastructure a major driver of its transformation, helping the Group to achieve its climate targets.

But this is by no means just a recent concern; a number of Renault plants all over the world have already been making significant progress in this area for over a decade.

The Tangier plant in Morocco is a key example, having already fully decarbonised by way of its zero CO₂ emissions and zero industrial effluents strategy, implemented in 2010. The plant’s success can be summed up in two figures: over 90% of its energy comes from renewable sources, avoiding the emission of 100,000 tonnes of CO₂ every year.

What’s more, a strategic partnership was signed with Iberdrola in 2021 to launch projects to reduce Renault Group’s CO₂ emissions and energy consumption in Spain and Portugal. For example, the Seville Refactory, Spain – similar to the Refactory in Flins – opened its doors in November, enabling the development of the country’s circular economy activities.

Moreover, the three French plants that make up the ElectriCity hub – Douai, Maubeuge et Ruitz – and the Cléon plant will become entirely carbon neutral facilities in 2025.

Lastly, the Refactory in Flins, France has just celebrated its first birthday. The plant marked the occasion by inaugurating ‘Factory VO’, an on-site centre specialised in reconditioning used vehicles so as to extend their life cycle and enable them to clock up over 1 million kilometres!

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