A good idea: Saving electrical energy using artificial intelligence


ISPT gladly offers start-ups and SMEs access to its broad network in sustainable process technology. In this way, good ideas get more resonance and innovation more potential. A good example is Semiotic Labs from Leiden. It developed a unique method for condition monitoring of electric motors, the data of which can also be used to identify energy-saving potential. ISPT introduced the company to the market and helped to obtain TKI subsidy to develop the concept further.

About three years ago, Semiotic Labs‘ founder Simon Jagers took the plunge. He picked up his phone and called ISPT director Tjeerd Jongsma, who was immediately captivated: “Simon was able to grab me in a sentence and a half. And he had a very concrete request: he was looking for partners willing to think along and develop his idea further. We’re talking about large companies here, where it’s difficult to get a foot in the door unless you have a good introduction. At ISPT we can play an important role in that”.
Jagers agrees: “What struck me was that Tjeerd immediately understood our technology and its potential application for energy reduction. This was at a time when we did not yet have a lot of field experience. We had a nice story, but could present only limited evidence. At that stage, credibility is enormously important. With ISPT as a ‘mutual friend’ and ‘trusted advisor’, we quickly found the right potential partners. That was incredibly valuable.”

Projectleider - Simon Jagers
=Simon Jagers, founder of Semiotic Labs
ISPT Team - Tjeerd Jongsma ©marc van der kort
Tjeerd Jongsma, Director of ISPT

Potential for energy savings

Semiotic Labs has been working since 2015 with a system that can assess the maintenance condition of components such as pumps, compressors and conveyor belts by analysing electrical signals. This prevents unplanned downtime, according to Jagers: “With our approach, we see about 90% of all failures well in advance. With traditional solutions, you only achieve 50 to 60%. Or maybe 70%, but then you have to spend lots of money. Our method is more accurate and gives fewer false positives. What’s more, we work from the control cabinet: no interventions are needed on the component itself. We don’t use sensors that are placed directly on the asset”. The Semiotic Labs approach stands out by the use of Artificial Intelligence, in which self-learning algorithms interpret the electrical data.

The reason to contact ISPT was the realisation that the electrical data also contains information about the efficiency of the components. “This enables you to discover potential energy savings and reduce costs,” says Jagers. “But such an idea can only be substantiated by applying it in practice. So we were looking for partners who wanted to stick their necks out and investigate this concept with us. At ISPT, we found not only enthusiasm for our concept, but also people who could provide knowledgeable feedback”.

Effectively facilitate development

Jongsma: “The case of Semiotic Labs is a textbook example of a valuable concept that has been well developed and is being marketed by enthusiastic people. We can very well bring this to the attention of our network. We know people who matter, often at the CTO level. You also see that companies are sensitive to the fact that we, as ISPT, support the concept, so that we can effectively facilitate development.”

While Jongsma mobilized the relevant partners, Jagers developed a proposal for further joint development of the savings concept. After a successful presentation for ISPT member companies, it came to a concrete project financed by TKI Energie. Jagers appreciates the central role of ISPT in this process: “Managing stakeholders, bringing multiple parties together in a joint project and formulating it in such a way that the government wants to subsidize, that is really valuable.” Jongsma adds: “In these types of projects, ISPT ensures that those who contribute the knowledge also acquire the right of use. We thus offer assurance that one of the project partners does not walk away alone with the knowledge. Over the years, we have shown that creating this trusted environment is important in establishing a successful cooperation.”

Getting things done

With the ERGO project, over the next three years, Jagers hopes to be able to demonstrate that the approach of Semiotic Labs can result in energy savings of 10 to 35%. “If you consider that industrial electric motors account for approximately 35% of the total electricity consumption in the Netherlands, we are talking about a substantial potential energy reduction”. For Jongsma, the project fits well with ISPT’s mission: accelerating innovation in the field of sustainable process technology. “It also demonstrates our value to – potential – member companies. We scout technology and facilitate developments that are of relevance.” This is precisely why ISPT is always interested in start-ups and small companies with a good idea, Jongsma adds: “We are open to everything and do not immediately ask for a financial contribution. Of course, we have to be critical and selective in what we pursue in our network. But if we are enthusiastic about something, then we can get things done”.


This project is co-funded by TKI-E&I with the supplementary grant 'TKI- Toeslag' for Topconsortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI’s) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.