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Steinbeis experts join forces with The Impact Farm and organize a sprint competition on behalf of two energy agencies aimed at identifying new ways to digitalize the energy industry

What do you get if you cross global trends like data-centric digitalization and sustainability with agile working practices? What is the real potential offered by data generated by smart meters? Will COVID-19 become a driver of crisis-proof digitalization? And are there sufficient safeguards in place to protect critical infrastructures? One thing all these questions have in common is that they show how important digital solutions will be to the energy industry in achieving the transition to alternative energy sources. They also revolve around the topics tackled by a Berlin-based startup called The Impact Farm, which is working in collaboration with the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Innovation Management and Intelligent Networks on an agile competition called the #enerthon20. Its motto: The power of data unleashed!

The two project partners are organizing the Enerthon under the patronage of German energy agency dena and the French energy agency ADEME. The international competition, which lasts four weeks, will see companies placed into categories by topic before firms invite data analysis and application experts to look into the digitalization challenges they currently face in achieving the green energy transition. Experts may apply to work on briefs within individual categories. COVID-19 has made business continuity management and digital solutions even more important as a topic, especially for operators of critical infrastructure.

In a nutshell, companies will outline the challenges they currently face when analyzing or re-using data, and experts will be given four weeks to work on solutions and functioning prototypes. Their ideas will then be taken back to the company and developed further within a real business setting so they can be optimized. Actual products will be made to measure by the experts in keeping with the requirements of the customer – not the other way around!

The Impact Farm (TIF) was founded as a startup in 2018. It describes itself as a “deep tech company builder” and offers data science and business intelligence expertise to medium-sized manufacturing companies. One method it applies is the 100-day sprint. Customers provide a digitalization challenge with a bearing on data, and TIF develops an idea from this challenge and turns it into a minimum viable product (MVP). To plan the Enerthon concept, this expertise offered by The Impact Farm was combined with an understanding of energy sector needs – for the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Innovation Management and Intelligent Networks, this is core brand know-how. The experts working at the Steinbeis Enterprise have a background in science and business, and offer made-to-measure staff training offering direct value to companies, particularly when it comes to innovation, secure business processes, and sustainability. To maximize knowledge-sharing between companies, the Steinbeis Enterprise is also offering in-house staff training to go hand in hand with the Enerthon initiative. The focus of training will lie in projects currently undergoing implementation with a bearing on digital transformation, innovation, and sustainability reporting. The Steinbeis Consulting Center is a partner of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University Center for Advanced Studies.


“Our goal with the Enerthon is not to bring in interdisciplinary teams, or even virtual teams, and just get them to present lots of cool slides for the weekend and show off their concepts. It will be more about developing functional prototypes. They’ll be given a four-week sprint and the prototypes will be assessed, given awards, and taken back to the companies for introduction,” explains Dr. Christian Schweizer, Steinbeis Entrepreneur at the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Innovation Management and Intelligent Networks, highlighting the aims of the competition. To ensure this happens within the right time frame and the process adheres to professional standards, the team organizing the competition is focusing on experts currently working in this area, people who “get things done,” and specialists who can work together virtually – an approach which is also more “crisis-resistant.” These experts will collaborate with a company – a sponsor prepared to reveal a data issue or allow the experts to examine a challenge they face with data quality. Together, they will refine a set of issues relating to a certain target group, start with a general idea, and then work this up into a specific question to be solved by the experts within four weeks. The application form went online in April and is open to would-be participants until October 4, 2020. TIF and the Steinbeis experts are also setting up virtual and physical teaser events across Europe with the aim of selecting as many high-quality applicants as possible, all of whom should have at least three years of professional experience. Sponsoring companies can also propose their own in-house interdisciplinary teams if they like.

The Enerthon will open with a kick-off event in Paris on October 19, 2020, which of course will also be staged virtually. At the event, the teams will be presented with a specific challenge in their selected category. They will then go back to their companies to work on prototypes, which will then be presented to a jury comprising prominent experts from politics, science, and the energy industry at the DENA convention in Berlin on November 16-17, 2020. During these two days, they will also be expected to field questions on cost-effectiveness, security, and development strategies. After the presentations, a jury comprising experts and the firms that acted as sponsors of each challenge will decide which concepts should be implemented or moved forward into further development.

Given the current situation with COVID-19, the competition has its finger on the pulse – new approaches to distributed collaboration are flexible and allow specialists to be brought in as and when necessary. They also offer certain benefits when it comes to making companies more crisis-resistant. Which is exactly where the Enerthon comes in. Unleash the power of data!


Benefits to you and your company

  • Rapid development of ready-to-implement concepts with minimal resources
  • Recruitment: direct access to data science experts
  • Opportunity to showcase company expertise
  • Insights into issues and potential solutions at other companies
  • Staff training options, new ideas/working practices

Benefits to you and your team

  • Opportunity to forge networks with other data scientists
  • Chance to meet companies with relevant issues; strong emphasis on digital solutions/data science
  • Inspiration and personal development

More on the competition: www.enerthon.com


Dr. Christian Schweizer (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Consulting Center Innovation Management and Intelligent Networks (Stuttgart)