The entrepreneurs are currently demonstrating their first remote-controlled robot which renovates vital water and sewage pipes. The robot, called FastFIX, is attracting great interest and impressing some of the major companies in the world within pipe renovation. The robot cleans, dries and grinds the pipe walls before spraying innovative, fast-curing liners in the pipes, see video.
Proof of concept
FastFIX is the first fully automatic remotely controlled pipe renovator for large diameter pipes. Entrepreneurs Torunn Aakermann and Bård Sæthre have developed and built the “proof-of-concept” prototype robot together with three European partners. The 24 million NOK project has been part of the Eurostars programme.
Impress the biggest
The duo has recently demonstrated the robot for some of the largest industrial players in the trenchless pipe industry in the Nordics, Europe and the USA.
"The companies are impressed," say the local entrepreneurs proudly. The two are also behind the innovation company Kinera in Porsgrunn.
"We are quite relieved that the FastFIX robot is considered a great addition to the trenchless renovation toolbox. We are demonstrating a completely new way of renewing and renovating large diameter pipes with a significantly increased safety aspect and with minimal environmental footprint vs digging up and replacing pipes. It is very inspiring to see that large industrial companies are interested and want to be involved further."
Joined the entrepreneurial environment at Herøya
Kinera came through the eye of the needle to the EU's Eureka-Eurostar program in 2019 and started the joint development with a Dutch mechanical workshop, a UK automation specialist and a Spanish chemical producer October 2019. In 2021, Aakermann and Sæthre brought FastFIX into the entrepreneurial environment Proventia at Herøya. Based on their idea proven in two pilot projects and the ongoing development of the FastFIX process, they received support from the incubator to focus on the market intro.
"Technically speaking, we already had a manually operated first generation robot, and the protective liners were quite ready. The main job has been to design, build and fully commission the prototype robot with all functional steps and show that it can be automated. We pulled through and now have a "proof-of-concept" robot. The remaining job is to find partners who can help us refining the prototype and bring this robot to market.”
Further improved and for sale
The duo praises Proventia for great help on business-related topics and testing ideas and preparing investor presentations, as well as been given access to many resources to spar and discuss issues with.
"The plan is to sell the prototype and the technolgy concept. We have spent the last year working a lot on building up the sales package, explaining the concept in detail," says Bård Sæthre. "We see that the package has been refined and much improved in the interaction with the resources around Proventia. We are very pleased."
Long-term industrial partners
"We need long-term industrial partners, preferably someone already in the pipe renovation market," says Torunn Aakermann. "Many struggle in finding early-stage investors with risk capital. Both we and the advisers at Proventia have gained some valuable experience here. We have received very good help from Petter Skaraas at Proventia, who is now himself increasing his focus on early-stage investors."
The technology will be ready for the market this year
The founding duo are excited.
"We are working intensely on lifting the FastFIX robot into the market. We need expertise and muscles to adjust the prototype and produce a robot that can be used in the renovation of pipes," says Torunn Aakermann and Bård Sæthre. They hope to finish finding the right partner within the year.
Thrilled by creating new business
"What drives you to embark on new entrepreneurial projects?"
"It's fun to develop and create a business," say the entrepreneurial duo who sold the operating company Kinera Coating AS along the way to focus fully on taking the next step in developing the robot.
"It's fantastic fun to be able to prove something you've had a clear idea about must be possible," says Torunn Aakermann. "And I'm thrilled to learn that several of the major companies in this business say this project is very interesting and that they believe in our process."
"We don't get rich, but it is the drive to create something that gives so much," says Bård Sæthre. "One must survive, of course, and we will. I am happy to realize values from my own thoughts and ideas. It's fun with Kinera Coating too. We sold a company that needed more muscles, and now it is a significant business which has both taken over our customers and brought in new. That's great!
FastFIX pipe renovation is an innovative renovator of infrastructure and pipes. There is a huge need in the world for renovating pipes. One of UN's sustainability goals is taking care of the vital water. FastFix responds to 5 of the sustainability goals.
Environment: Trenchless, 80% reduction in CO2 footprint - it only needs digging to enter the pipe, no trenches. The FastFIX robot washes, dries, grinds and sprays liner in pipes. All operations are remotely controlled.
28. February 2023