Energomash Conducted Russian Space Industry’s First Business Accelerator

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — At the beginning of last year, the Energomash Scientific and Production Association named after academician V.P. Glushko (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) together with the Skolkovo Foundation organized a project unique for the Russian space industry. The idea was to attract small innovative companies and development teams to cooperation and create promising technologies, or, in modern terms, startups.

This approach to the search for breakthrough ideas and talents is widely practiced in the IT, fintech sphere and is called a business accelerator. Vitaly Serikov, head of the marketing and sales department of NPO Energomash, says that in this case it was about the search for innovative projects in three areas and their adaptation to the requirements of the enterprise.

“Our task is to get either new technologies, or a competitive product in our portfolio, or master a new business line upon completion of the acceleration program,” explains the manager. “The main goal is to ensure financial growth and consolidate competitive advantages.”

Hello, We are Looking for Talents

The idea to start searching for innovative technologies “outside the contour” was prompted by the understanding that in the market conditions, the struggle for the efficiency and competitiveness of its products, it is necessary to introduce the most advanced practices and approaches in the field of innovation management. Despite the world leadership in the field of rocket propulsion, the enterprise needs further development and technological renewal.

“The rationale is that it is vitally important for an enterprise to constantly look for opportunities for future development. Innovation today is a necessary condition for the growth of companies and enterprises in all industries, – explains Vitaly Serikov . “So where to get them? Of course, from new technologies that need to be found and implemented using our experience and capabilities. We generate some of it within the company by holding competitions for innovative ideas. However, in a highly competitive environment, this is not enough. Having studied the experience of interaction of modern enterprises with the outside world, we decided to resort to new models for us, such as “open innovation”.

The first thing we thought about: should we organize some kind of international conference – like Space Propulsion, a famous event that takes place in the West every two years and is the largest platform for the exchange of experience in the field of engine building? We even started to cook something, but then, for a number of reasons, we abandoned this idea. We also looked at various forms of collaboration with startups.

As a result, we chose the best option for ourselves: a corporate accelerator. This format is good in that it is aimed at finding exactly those technologies that are necessary for the enterprise to solve current problems, and allows you to quickly refine the idea for its implementation and commercialization.

Our partner in this work is the Skolkovo Foundation. Their capabilities and experience made a good impression. This is the only development institution that has a cluster of space technologies, a solid pool of industry experts, experience in implementing projects of similar complexity with state corporations Rosatom, Rostec, etc. Roscosmos enterprise was appreciated at its true worth

.“It is a great honor for us to work with NPO Energomash, the world leader in space propulsion engineering,” said Ilya Vorobyov, Project Development Director of the Skolkovo Foundation. “We want to use this opportunity to show what the members of the Skolkovo ecosystem are capable of. We hope that the pilot project will be followed by others on space issues.”

Optimal Solution

The next step was the identification of topics of interest to NPO Energomash and enterprises that are part of the integrated structure of rocket engine building. Three strategic directions were formulated:

  • Rocket engine building;
  • Information Technology;
  • civilian products.

They stemmed from the main goals: to increase the competitiveness and quality of products; reduce costs and speed up the cycle of its development and production; find technologies for the creation of new design solutions, materials and components for engines, as well as organize the production of non-core products in demand.

“We are interested in a lot – from breakthrough ideas in the field of fundamental research and ending with applied issues,” says Vitaly Serikov… – The focus of our attention, of course, is technological proposals and digital applications for design bureaus and production, the implementation of which will reduce the development and release time of products, improve consumer characteristics, which will ultimately lead to strengthening our position in the market. Another important area is the implementation of various business projects in the production of civilian products that will be in demand by the market. If someone offers a profitable cooperation or a project, we are ready to get involved in joint work. The enterprises of the integrated structure have something to offer consumers in various industries within the framework of the import substitution program …

… It is worth noting that the accelerator is a risky project: no one promised, and even more so, did not guarantee that by spending time and money on this activity, we will certainly get a meaningful and interesting result. In addition, the hasty implementation of an unsuitable solution can lead to material and reputational losses. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out a comprehensive examination and verification of the declared technical parameters during “piloting”.

There is another important aspect worth mentioning. Our initiative would not have been realized without the support of NPO Energomash General Director. Igor Alexandrovich [Arbuzov] understands perfectly well that new vectors of development are needed for growth. He approved our initiative by giving the team clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators. – Ed.). “

Get down to business!

An open selection of proposals started in February 2020. “We have collected a ‘funnel’ of about 200 projects at different stages of development,” says Ilya Vorobyov. “If we break it down by topic, then the ratio is equal – about a third in each direction.”

It was necessary to choose the most interesting from the variety of ideas and proposals. For this, representatives of the Skolkovo Foundation and NPO Energomash carried out a stage-by-stage examination.

During the first round, two-thirds of the applicants were eliminated, after the second, their number dropped to 30. Ten projects entered the final selection in May last year. Only after that the active stage of acceleration started, that is, the process of improving and bringing to mind the presented proposals.“This result exceeded all our initial expectations,” said Dmitry Pakhomov, Deputy Director for Strategic Development, Innovation and Marketing of NPO Energomash . – The work continues thanks to representatives of Energomash services and our partners – with a focus on the fact that we will bring novelty to the creation of the best liquid-propellant rocket engines and revive the production of civilian products with promising projects.

The pandemic intervened in the course of further work. Not everyone was ready for regular face-to-face meetings and consultations. And the schedule itself has shifted in time. The number of projects has been steadily declining, failing to meet strict quality criteria. At the beginning of this year, it became known about four companies that have entered the final stage of the accelerator. Three of them presented projects for the Dvigatelestroyeniye track, and one for Civilian Production.

“By and large, they are all already winners, because they have lived with us this difficult year,” says Vitaly Serikov . “We managed to assemble a team of the best minds of the enterprise to work on the development of projects. Our specialists have gained unique skills and experience of interacting with innovative teams. I think this practice is worthy of scaling at the industry level as well. “

The projects that reached the final were recommended by experts for implementation. In the near future the management of NPO Energomash will make a final decision on cooperation with the finalists. The next stage after the accelerator is the “industrializer”, that is, the implementation of the selected solution into real production.

Accelerator Finalists

Track “Engine Building”

A project to create a unique hardware and software complex for optical monitoring of hard-to-reach internal cavities of a liquid-propellant rocket engine

The system is a hardware and software complex for examining parts of critical equipment with a defectoscopy function.

The system software has intelligent functions, assessing the degree of wear and detecting defects in the mechanisms directly during the examination.

The system recognizes mechanical engineering parts such as gears, turbine blades, flywheels and others. Can build a 3D model in near real-time mode and investigate both the quality of surfaces and faces using intelligent functions, and deviations from the specified parameters or the reference 3D model.

During examination, measurements of the shape of arbitrary elements are possible, the capture of the measurement image occurs simultaneously.

A project to simulate combustion processes and coupled heat exchange in a gas generator

Development of multilevel process models based on the analysis and construction of the mechanism of the ongoing physical and chemical processes, providing the accumulation of fundamental data at all levels of modeling and determining the predictability of the model.

Predictive multilevel models of processes in reacting environments are implemented in the form of algorithms, open source programs, commercial software products, databases on the properties of individual substances and elementary processes. The developments are presented both in the form of separate products and in the form of modules for integration into third-party programs for R&D.

Project for the creation of a software package for the comparative assessment of design options for centrifugal nozzles

New digital technology for KB to reduce costs and accelerate product development and manufacturing cycles. The system is intended for the development of rocket engine units, as well as for testing their digital prototypes in a wide range of operating conditions, environment and engine operation scenarios.

Track “Civilian Products”

Project to create an innovative piezoelectric actuator for pipeline valves and other industrial applications

The piezoelectric valve actuator has precise control, small size and fast response. The piezoelectric linear stepper motor drives the shutter directly, eliminating the complex kinematic chain used in conventional electric drives with an electric rotation motor.

The innovative actuator is resistant to frost and moisture, prevents gaps in valves, oil spills, gas leaks, radioactive and chemical substances. Jamming, breaks and bends of the stem are excluded.

Russian Space
Igor Afanasyev