Digital Transformation Calls For Skills Integration

Collaboration between startups, academia and industrial research and development capabilities will bring about disruptive digital innovation.
Published: Fri 24 Jul 2015

There is no option but to embrace digital transformation because digital is transforming the energy industry profoundly. This is according to Charles Delalonde, Head of Digital Innovation, EDF Energy R&D UK Centre, who will be discussing EDF Energy's digital agenda at the upcoming European Utility Week.

Energy transformation calls for skills

In an exclusive interview with Engerati, he recommends that when developing a digital transformation plan, it is important to reduce time to market by bringing on board the right skills and integrating the research and development and IT departments. While developers will help create robust software architecture, data scientists contribute by analysing customer uptakes and opportunities mining the project’s data. It is the data scientist skills that are particularly hard to come by-across all industries, he says.

It is a relatively new role and the energy industry finds it difficult to find and employ these skills, explains Mr Delalonde. To solve this problem, he suggests that there be more collaboration between utilities and universities. Utilities should be appointing and training a number of interns or PhD candidates. “This is a more cost-effective way to detect future talents since fully trained data scientists will cost significantly more.”

Closing the gap between research and IT departments

Research and IT departments are working more closely now in order to support the development of digital technology and services across departments. “It is important to ensure that work developed from the research and development is being absorbed by the IT department which will eventually be maintained by them.”

He adds that these two departments should share good practice and learning which will ensure that innovations are ready for market quicker. “This collaboration will support open-mindedness which should lead to a willingness to exchange innovative ideas, pushed by an ‘innovation factory’”.

Discussing the challenges that exist between research and development and the IT department, Mr Delalonde says that often the IT department expects a very sophisticated and robust technology or service which has yet to be fully developed or tested.

Involve startups and academia

Leading a team of digital and energy experts, Mr Delalonde is bridging the gap between startups, academia and industrial research and development to bring disruptive digital innovation to the energy industry. He will be sharing his journey on accelerating EDF Energy's digital agenda during European Utility Week.

Academia and public funding will help solve a number of challenging questions over the long term. Startups have a lot to offer in innovation and utilities should benefit from them. Whole new markets can be set up including security, transport, or around the insurance market.

“No-one is entitled to a specific market anymore. It’s possible for companies to branch out and offer new products and services. Utilities need to source new ideas and implement these in order to flourish.”

In conclusion, Mr Delalonde says that he looks forward to hearing about various utilities’ innovations at European Utility Week which provides a good platform to pause and reflect. “At the event, utilities are given the opportunity to  benchmark and exchange ideas with peers. It provides a great opportunity for networking and creates an exchange of learning from each other.”

He adds, “Instead of being worried about market transformation, it is a good time to reinvent ourselves. Utilities should explore the different markets that the Internet of Things and Big Data are creating”.

Head Of Digital Innovation for EDF Energy Research & Development Centre, Mr Delalonde has successfully delivered Digital Innovation for over 10 years with established big players in the telecoms and energy industries. His research has been patented, published and embedded in apps and websites that have been rolled out to millions of customers and employees.