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INTOGENER: Interview with Starlab and ENDESA - part 1

INTOGENER, ESA IAP.s supported activity on improving the forecasting of available water resources for better management of hydroelectricity power plants, is moving forward. The active commitment of the user (The Spanish utility ENDESA S.A.) is already showing many interesting results, not only about of information collection, but also about organising and managing all the communications and logistics in Chile, the target region of this activity. This is a clear indication that IAP.s user-driven approach is being successful and beneficial for both the users and the space industry.

The IAP team has approached the leader of the industrial team as well as the user to interview some of their key staff involved in the activity, to give us their impressions on several topics, and also to encourage other users without a clear knowledge on the capabilities of space technologies to find similar partnerships in the development of new services.

These types of partnerships are particularly well suited for SME.s. They can be supported by well-known larger companies, opening for them the doors of markets otherwise difficult for them to access. Ms, Araceli Pi, Service Business Development Manager of Starlab, explains this to us.

Q1. IAP: Starlab is a company with two different profiles: Space and neurosciences, quite an interesting combination, and not very common to find, particularly in an SME. Can you explain to us why such a division in these two areas that apparently have nothing to do with each other?

Araceli Pi, Service Business Development, Starlab (Photo)

Araceli Pi, Service Business Development, Starlabf

A1. Space and Neuroscience are to be found in the origins off our company. We believe that both of them are key areas for the 21st century and have a common element: the increasing availability of streams of information. Starlab believes in multidisciplinarity as a key element for the creation of knowledge, so even other research areas may develop in the future. Both sectors are not only key and strongly linked to cutting-edge technologies, but in addition, both activities rely on signal processing, being the background technologies not so different in terms of concept. We believe in innovation and this is one of the reasons that Starlab is working in these two areas.
When addressing a new challenge we put special care of building complementary and synergic working teams that may be composed of persons from Space and Neuroscience backgrounds, endorsed always by market guidance. Innovation includes not only technical skills, but also the way you do business.

Q 2. IAP: You have established quite a solid relationship with ENDESA in previous years. But actually, ENDESA being a company not related to either of your two main lines of activity, what made you start such a relationship?

Araceli Pi,A2. The relationship with ENDESA started some years ago through ENDESA.s Novare Awards initiative. Novare Awards are part of ENDESA.s Global Strategy for Sustainability whose aim is to promote technological innovation. Starlab foresaw a great opportunity to perform R&D in direct contact with the end user and in a real environment, and therefore we applied to these Novare Awards.

After hard competition, Starlab eventually won the Novare Awards in 2008 with the HYDRO R&D project. HYDRO proposed the use of Earth Observation (EO) in the prediction data of water flow in collaboration with the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC). 

During the two years HYDRO lasted, the relationship between ENDESA and Starlab became more solid, based on results and on the day-to-day work. Both companies. interests converged; while ENDESA believes in technological innovation to meet the energy needs of society in a sustainable way, Starlab is committed to cutting-edge technologies with impact on Society. Additionally, while ENDESA's strategy has always included interest in using new technologies to meet operational needs, Starlab has been willing to build up operational EO services aiming to support the management decision process. 

Now INTOGENER aims to go further than HYDRO by implementing a water-flow monitoring and prediction system aimed at hydro-power production companies. This system will use satellite-based Earth Observation data, in-situ information based on reflected GNSS signals measured from remote places and transferred by satellite data links, and finally, assimilation of this data into a hydrological model for the proper forecast of water flow. 

INTOGENER represents an ideal framework to design and demonstrate an innovative service hand-in-hand with ENDESA as key user and stakeholder. 

Having ENDESA involved from the beginning of the project idea ensures the service market orientation and the transfer to a sustainable service once the project is finished. Starlab is willing to make INTOGENER a success story as an operational service in response to market user needs. 


ENDESA is a company whose name is synonymous with Innovation. For a number of years ENDESA was one of the top-five companies of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index as well as the Dow Jones Sustainability Stoxx Index of the New York.s Stock Exchange. Apart from measuring the financial health of the company, these indexes are a clear indicator of the role Research, Development and Innovation are playing in the strategy of the company. ENDESA dedicates a significant part of its budget to develop new technologies and services, but until recently, they were not really aware of the fact that space technologies could help their business.
We approached two of the responsible persons in charge of INTOGENER, Dr. J.M. Pardos-Gotor from ENDESA Corporation (Madrid, Spain) and Ms. S. Zenteno, from ENDESA Chile (Santiago de Chile, Chile)

Q3. IAP: ENDESA is currently part of one of the world's largest utilities, with a big market in South America. Can you explain to us briefly what the problems you are facing there are regarding the management of hydroelectricity?
Dr. José M. Pardos-Gotor, Head of Technology Projects, ENDESA Corporation

Dr. José M. Pardos-Gotor, Head of Technology Projects, ENDESA Corporation

A3. In Chile, 50% market share of energy comes from renewable energy with water resources. Due to the nature of the terrain, all basins are connected to the grid with a large number of resources managed by different power companies. The availability of accurate information of the current water flow and forecasting of it is fundamental to correct management and operational planning.
Currently, only in situ measures and local models are being used in a region where it is difficult to place a network of in situ instrumentation; many of the areas are remote and difficult to access. In addition, the instrumentation used today is costly and the information provided is not well suited to our requirements.
This is why the proposed service resulting from the INTOGENER initiative could produce a substantial improvement in the management and operational planning related to water resources. Even a slight improvement in the prediction model would represent a very important impact in terms of efficiency and energy savings.

08 October 2010
Last updated at 06 March 2014 - 10:18