Asperitas cools data centres in an ecologically responsible manner and in accordance with an innovative, technical principle. Innovation Credit helped to get this challenging concept off the ground.
Data centres are facilities that house ICT equipment. Markus Mandemaker, co-founder and owner of Asperitas: "For purposes of safety, it is important to dissipate the heat generated by the computers. The heat can be dissipated via the air, but that results in the loss of the heat. It is more efficient to do it using liquid."
From energy user to heat supplier
Asperitas dusted off an already existing concept. By suspending electronics in liquid, it is a simple matter to capture the heat in the liquid. You no longer need to use energy to cool the data centres and blow the air around," Mandemaker explains. "Moreover, you can use reuse the energy used in the form of warm water, for heating buildings, for example. This way, a data centre can save up to 50% on energy."
Mandemaker says the renewed concept for liquid cooling is innovative. "If you submerge network cables in liquid – oil in our case – the austere environment of a data centre can get dirty. Furthermore, liquid must circulate to carry away the heat. However, we want to limit the impact on the environment as much as possible. Our innovative solution is natural convection: gravity drives the circulation. We commissioned the design of a clean, easily maintained installation that meets the requirements of the international cloud data centre industry: efficient, flexible, modular and scalable."
From business plan to market interaction
Asperitas wrote a business plan in early 2015. "In the summer of 2015, we achieved our proof of principle ourselves", says Mandemaker. "We then engaged an engineering firm to develop the installation. The first prototype was ready in the summer of 2016, and we have continued developing this prototype. In 2017, we built our first mini-series and entered the market. Since then, we have been actively marketing the installation and have signed our first contracts."
More than just money
Asperitas applied for and received money from the Innovation Credit scheme. "Initially, we didn’t really know about it," says Mandemaker. "But we figured that there must be funds available for our innovation somewhere, and that's when we found out about Innovation Credit. I realised that the Innovation Credit is more than money alone. The scheme has a high threshold; they don’t just hand you the money and we had to go through a tough application procedure. For that reason, we decided to engage an external adviser, which resulted in sound plans. As an entrepreneur, you get really involved in the material, and a technical innovation can have you drowning in technical details and jargon. An external adviser can help you formulate your plans so that the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) has what it needs to approve them."
The critical questions asked by RVO.nl were helpful in creating plans that were more consistent and reasoned, and therefore better. "The people at RVO.nl have seen a great many innovations, both successful and unsuccessful. All that experience is reflected in their questions and comments. If your plan contains any pitfalls, they are sure to spot them."
Threshhold is advantage
Looking back, Mandemaker thinks the high threshold was an advantage. "Being awarded credit means you were successful in convincing the government. In other words, your plan must have been an excellent one. In this way, being granted the credit boosted our credibility."
"We believed so strongly in our concept that, even without the Innovation Credit, we would probably still have continued work on our project," Mandemaker thinks,. "However, being granted that credit certainly helped to convince other investors, thereby increasing the likelihood of the project’s success."
Mandemaker advises entrepreneurs wishing to apply for funding under the Innovation Credit scheme to engage an external adviser who is experienced in drawing up plans for challenging innovations. "The procedure is intensive, but once you have convinced the employees and have been accepted by RVO.nl, you will get all the support your need."