Photo: FLASC senior researcher Daniel Buhagiar explains the value of intellectual property protection (Photo: Navingo)

FLASC underscores value of patents for industry collaboration

FLASC senior researcher Daniel Buhagiar explains the value of intellectual property protection (Photo: Navingo)

In a talk show held as part of Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference 2018, Daniel Buhagiar, a senior researcher in a team developing energy storage system tailored for marine renewables, spoke about the importance of patent protection for building strong collaborations within the offshore energy industry.

As Senior Research Engineer of the FLASC team from the University of Malta, Daniel Buhagiar explained the development of the university’s patent-protected energy storage system in an on-air discussion that explored what is more beneficial for innovation – sharing the inventions or building a wall around them.

Short for Floating Liquid-piston Accumulator using Seawater under Compression, FLASC is a novel energy storage technology concept which features a dual-vessel compressed air energy storage system suitable for integration with offshore renewable energy sources.

Daniel Buhagiar (Photo: Navingo)

According to Buhagiar, protecting the intellectual property (IP) in certain applications makes it easier to form collaborations, and accelerate the development of a specific product, as it gives security to smaller enterprises that their IP will be protected from larger companies that have the resources to put the product to the market faster.

“In that case, our IP protection allows us to engage these companies and to show them what we’re doing, and at the same time we do have some peace of mind that the IP is protected. It also allows us to publish in journals and conferences because, as soon as you put out a publication in public domain, then you cannot patent it,” said Buhagiar.

The value of patents extends further from IP protection, according to Buhagiar, who emphasized the importance of owning a patent for attracting investments.

“IP is an issue that always comes up, and in our experience, investors are always happy to see that we have a patent. It’s something that I think adds value to our start-up,” Buhagiar noted.

The FLASC solution is targeted at improving the power quality aspect of energy storage, as opposed to long-term storage, according to Buhagiar.

“We’re aiming for approximately four-hour window to provide constant power output to provide ramp-rates regulation, and absorb sharp variations both in supply and demand – and the mismatch between the two. We are also targeting frequency and voltage control – much of the same things that are targeted by onshore battery banks – but this time using a compressed air system offshore,” Buhagiar explained.

FLASC prototype trials in the Maltese Grand Harbour (Photo: University of Malta)

The initial trials on the first small-scale floating energy storage prototype have been concluded in August 2018, marking the FLASC project’s progress to the next phase.

Since the FLASC team functions as an extension of knowledge-transfer environment of the University of Malta, Buhagiar revealed that a process of creating a university spin-off company is currently ongoing, with the team also looking at possibilities of setting up within an incubator in other parts of Europe that could offer strategic advantages.

Talking about the future of the FLASC research, Buhagiar said:

“We want to find a company with know-how, credibility and experience in the offshore sector to partner up with and to develop larger systems. We’re looking for a strategic investors, not simply cash investments, although we have some interest in that regard as well.”

Livestreamed on on October 24, 2018, the recording of the talk show has also been made available to the public.

Article prepared by Amir Garanović