SAP’s Geoff Ryder discusses the Utility of Tomorrow contest

Along with several partner companies and universities, SAP launched its Utility of Tomorrow contest recently.

The contest, which is a global one, is aimed primarily at university students. They enter a submission on the Utility of Tomorrow competition website, and if their submission is chosen as one of the winning entries, they are flown to California to work with engineers from SAP to implement their idea! The closing date for submission of entries has been extended to November 29th 2013.

It sounds like a very exciting competition, so I spoke to the organiser of the competition, SAP’s Geoff Ryder to get more information on it.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV. I am here today with SAP’s Geoff Ryder and we are going to talk about the Utility of Tomorrow contest.

Geoff, can you tell me first of all, what is Utility of Tomorrow contest and what’s the thinking behind it, where did it come from?

Geoff Ryder: Hey, thanks very much Tom and welcome everyone. So, the Utility of Tomorrow contest came about in conversations between our utility team, a sustainability team and our utility customers, who are really struggling to connect with their end-users, end users of electricity, but also in waste management and water utilities. They need to connect to their customers to kind of get them involved in programs and shape their behavior in ways that are sustainable and beneficial.

But a lot of us you know it’s kind of a dull topic, it’s not usually on the top of mind in most customers, a lot of them read their utility bills once or twice a year or just pay them automatically, so not a lot of engagement there, how do we foster that engagement?

Well, we see the university students as really innovative thinkers, who are very involved in digital technology and wise about how to use it and they have innovative ideas, especially as the utility customers of the future, they will be able to provide their innovative ideas. This is a way to get utilities and those folks together.

Tom Raftery: If I am in the university and I have a couple of friends and we have this awesome idea, what do we do, where do we go?

Geoff Ryder: Okay, go ahead and just go to the website, which is… you can go to your favorite search engine and type Utility of Tomorrow Contest and it should take you right to our web page.

Tom Raftery: And the entries?

Geoff Ryder: Right, so the entries themselves say we are looking for maybe a 3 page format that you right yourself like a document and submit it in Word format or a PDF and then, we are looking for may be 800 words and you can go longer if you want, but maybe 1500 words, maybe 6 or 7 pages would be the recommended limit, so that you get the judges all read the entire material.

We welcome diagrams and tables if that would help. But again they are basically 800 words, the key thing is we ask you to describe the entry, a good description of the entry, the value proposition, key activities, resources and partners that are needed to realize the idea.

And then we also like to keep this grounded, something that can actually be realized in next 1 to 3 years. So for that purpose, we’d like a little bit of a business analysis, basic cost information, what are the raw materials that are involved and maybe something about the social benefits or the revenue. This doesn’t have to be for profit enterprise even. It can be even a money losing proposition, but that’s okay as long as the social benefits are great enough to justify it.

Tom Raftery: How does the judging work after that?

Geoff Ryder: Well, we have a distinguished panel of judges from SAP and our utility partners and each one is going to get — it will basically be judged by at least two judges each entry. Then we will — some of them will be selected as winners, some will also be acknowledged as finalists for being high quality.

Tom Raftery: Okay and what are the prizes, what do I get if I am a finalist or if I win?

Geoff Ryder: That’s actually the key to the contest. We worked backwards from the prize, and the prize is to get our utility and SAP engineers in the same room with the winners. And we are going to choose five winning teams, a winning team can be a single person with their idea or a team of two and we are going to fly them to Palo Alto California for a week-long workshop and then we are going to basically realize your idea together with the engineers.

Tom Raftery: What are you guys hoping to get from this and if I am submitting something, is there something in particular where I should be aiming towards?

Geoff Ryder: I think it’s diagnosing in your area what would a challenge for the utility company that you see. Now it can be on the electric side, so the electric power utility is struggling with uh, integrating green energy into the grid, smart appliances in the home, maybe connecting to them and having behavioral modification on, on that. Electric vehicles, how do you innovate electric vehicles into your community, in the utilities and some parts of the world need to take a lead on that on the infrastructure too.

And then also water and waste management, there are problems in water use, tracking it, disposing properly of waste, I mean there are a lot of topics.

So, basically diagnosing their problems that you see and then offering an innovative solution that might involve the mobile app and that mobile app would connect the utility to the consumer, it might be a Gamified app where you get points for doing something sustainable.

Tom Raftery: Great! Geoff, that’s been fantastic. Thanks for joining us today.

Geoff Ryder:

SAP’s Geoff Ryder discusses the Utility of Tomorrow contest