The newly established company EMerald Geomodelling will, in the next few years, work to enable smarter resource utilization in public and private sector when planning infrastructure.
The innovation company is based on several years of research at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI). By combining geoscanning with machine learning, the innovative company wants to help solve major challenges in infrastructure projects in the coming years.
“Limited knowledge of basic conditions is often one of the main reasons for budget overruns. Worldwide, more than 90 percent of planned infrastructure projects exceed budgets and deadlines,” says the press release from the company. The researchers behind EMerald Geomodelling want to do something about this.
After several years of research, they have come up with technological solution that aims to reduce geological risk early in a project. Lars Andresen, Managing Director of NGI, is very pleased with the results of this work.
“One of NGI’s main objectives is to develop technology that is put into use and is of benefit to society,” says Andresen.
He emphasizes that the Research Council’s FORNY program is an important tool to succeed in getting good solutions out on the market.
Research, innovation and entrepreneurship
In early 2018, NGI, together with Kjeller Innovation, received a grant for a FORNY2020 project. The goal was to make socially beneficial research and innovation more accessible to the free market. Through the establishment of EMerald Geomodelling AS, this has now been realized.
The driving force behind the research, Andreas A. Pfaffhuber, now CEO in EMerald Geomodelling, emphasizes that the need for this technology is great.
“Through the FORNY project were given the opportunity to carry out pilot projects with both BaneNOR, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and Nye Veier AS. This allowed us to gain broad experience and be able to improve and further develop both technology and expertise in airborne geo-scanning,” says Pfaffhuber.
The insight into what was most valuable to the clients not only provided experience, but also new customers. The company therefore sees great growth potential in the geotechnical market both internationally and in Norway.
“It is exciting and motivating to work with clients when their goals overlap so well with our own: Sustainable infrastructure development and better utilization of resources,” says Pfaffhuber.
Machine learning is key
By combining complex geophysical data with strategic geotechnical surveys, one should be able to provide comprehensive 3D models that show the ground conditions in the area.
“A good overview of the ground conditions at an early stage of the project can result in significant savings of resources. This is an invaluable contribution for the planning phase of new roads or railways for project managers. At the same time, good knowledge of the ground conditions provides a basis for choosing the right alignment, so that one can build efficiently right from the start. We are constantly working to develop the technology to make it more efficient and easier to use – even in smaller projects,” says Pfaffhuber.
The innovation company is already well established in the Norwegian market. For the next three months, the founding team will be stationed at Forskningsparken, an extension of Blindern [campus of the University of Oslo], where they will partake in StartupLab’s accelerator program. Both StartupLab and Akershus Technology Fund have invested in the company.
“We are very proud of the fact that StartupLab and Akershus Technology Fund are investing in us. It shows that people see the value of what we do and how we contribute to society. These are solutions that mean a lot, both in terms of money saved, but also in terms of making it easier to plan new routes in difficult areas. This is important for those living in vulnerable areas,” says Pfaffhuber.
Already in late 2019, EMerald Geomodelling is collaborating with NGI on a major project in northern India. The Kashmir region is known for its impassable and dangerous mountain roads that are particularly exposed to avalanches in winter. EMerald Geomodelling will assist by using its technology in four major tunnel projects. “These are challenging areas with steep mountains, deep valleys and landslides hazards coming from all sides. The fact that we can go in to do ground investigations from helicopters makes such road projects possible,” says Pfaffhuber.