The launch of APL Energy has successfully brought a first issue of high-quality research works on the latest advances in applied energy: From H2 utilization to photovoltaics or batteries, APL Energy maintains high-quality standards.
Our mission is to position APL Energy as an influential publication platform to promote research and technology that bridges basic science and commercialization of advanced energy technology for the green-energy transformation of our society. For this, we recognize the essential demand to engage groundbreaking ideas into applications and final products to transform the way we utilize and exploit energy (Fig. 1).
To fast make the energy system distributed, renewables-driven, and integrated, we need to develop new energy technologies that must be economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable. To maximize the success rate of bringing such technologies from lab to market—the so-called innovation journey—they need to be developed via an ecosystemic approach, which means through a dialogue and cooperation between all the innovation arena actors. The energy science-based technology solutions innovation journey is problem-oriented and associated with uncertain R&D cycles. To fast build tangible, often regulated, products and processes in the whole energy value chain, ranging from energy raw materials mining up to delivering energy to the final customer, it is necessary to implement a holistic approach since the lab design, which should be safe and sustainable. It is of paramount importance for de-risking the innovation journey of energy technologies and overcome the many technological, commercial, and financial challenges (e.g., private investors want to see the “hardware” in operation before investing) to properly design the proof of principle and prototyping phase of the energy technology innovation journey implementing a DBTL (design–build–test–learn) approach.
APL Energy Editorial Advisory Board member
EIC Programme Manager
Therefore, we have embarked on the launching of a new type of manuscript: Proof of Concept and Prototype. A brief (4-pages), concise, and highly focused manuscript describing a transformative idea in applied energy and its utilization in the real world. A Proof of Concept and Prototype article targets already demonstrated or intellectual property protected research and their pathway to commercial viability. Its short length and specificity, to-the-point information, should resemble a “fact and figure” proposal for entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and investors with limited time and well-defined product goals.
A Proof of Concept is relevant before the idea has reached the prototype level and can offer a perspective on the feasibility and financial potential of the idea. It covers the Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1 to 3 (Fig. 2). A Prototype allows for a feasibility study to market uptake of a final product and a possible manufacturing scale-up for an innovation, usually encompassing TRLs from 4 to 6 (Fig. 2). Thus, this unique and new type of Proof of Concept and Prototype manuscript can cover any of these TRLs. The manuscript will also follow the APL Energy peer-reviewed process followed with other types of manuscripts.
In an industrial setting, proof of concept research (TRLs 1–3) is done at the front end of the technology pipeline. This research is highly exploratory in searching for novel solutions to existing commercial challenges, or the novel application of new or existing science to provide groundbreaking technology that opens new pathways to business opportunities. Three key questions are asked very early. First, what is the underlying fundamental science on which this proof of concept is based and how well is it understood? Second, how truly groundbreaking is this concept? Third, what benefit does this concept provide to the company? The first challenges the researchers on the depth of their knowledge of the relevant scientific literature, the second on their knowledge of
the relevant patent literature, and third in a best-case scenario, what is the value proposition? In short, is this concept technically sound, is it patentable, and is it worth further development? With success in addressing these issues, the effort then moves to a more rigorous characterization of the nature and benefit of this groundbreaking concept typically involving extensive experimental and modeling efforts eventually leading to one or several prototype stages. Key factors to be addressed include scalability, performance, and cost–benefits relative to the next best technology, the size of the market for this technology, and the estimated development cost.
Proof of concept research is done at the laboratory scale. Discovery and testing typically employs model feeds processed at conditions that may/may not mimic those that would ultimately be used in a commercial process. With progress to a prototype stage (TRLs 4–6, Fig. 2), the technical basis of the core concept is unchanged, but the scope of how this innovation is to be deployed evolves. Whereas discovery and concept definition focus on establishing the key chemistry and physics of the invention, prototype development has a strong engineering focus. Prototype design may go through multiple revisions in efforts to maximize performance while minimizing operational and capital costs. Ultimately, for the concept to be a commercial success, it will be scaled to a demonstration scale operating on a real feed at optimized, commercially relevant conditions. At TRL 6, the prototype has become a process with an established market value. Beyond this stage, further refinements and long term testing will establish the robustness of the proposed process.
David C. Calabro
APL Energy Industrial Advisory Board member
Retired, ExxonMobil Research & Eng.
We wish this manuscript can serve as a platform where research and innovation come together for the development of new products and technologies. We want to provide an opportunity for researchers, scientific and innovation managers, and entrepreneurs to publish their groundbreaking work and technological innovations which may otherwise not find an avenue for publication.
With this initiative, APL Energy also hopes to educate early career researchers, with an entrepreneurial spirit, in their trajectory to world applications beyond laboratory research, and be the link between their research results and industry.
An esteemed group of innovators and industry leaders with extensive expertise in applied energy are supporting this endeavor. You can find some of them as part of our Associate Editors and Industrial Advisory Board. Together, we have designed this new type of manuscript with the anticipation that it will attract entrepreneurs, spin-off and start-up companies, and small- or medium-sized enterprises engaged in applied energy research.
We hope you find this initiative highly appealing and participate in the realization and outcomes of this new project.
If you are interested in submitting a Proof of Concept and Prototype article to APL Energy, please complete the 1-page pre-submission proposal form available on our website and send it to email@example.com.
Conflict of Interest
The authors have no conflicts to disclose. The views expressed in this manuscript are the personal opinions of Francesco Matteucci and David Calabro and do not reflect those of the European Commission and ExxonMobil, respectively.