At Stimergy, we recycle the heat generated by computer servers. With our “digital boilers”, we can use energy that would have otherwise been lost to heat water of collective and tertiary buildings. It’s an economical and sustainable approach.
Stimergy has been brilliantly developing a highly responsible energy project since 2013. First on his own, then assisted by his team, Christophe Perron wanted to solve the problem of high energy consumption of datacentres. He has decided to recycle the heat generated by computers to heat water of residential buildings, student housing, swimming pools and office buildings. His idea meets growing demand not only from companies, institutions and housing providers to reduce their energy footprint, but also from IT industry that need to reduce their energy costs. The Grenoble-based company has been receiving support from InnoEnergy since 2014, and has eight employees. It is now launching the commercialisation of its new services: leasing computing and storage capacities from its local and green distributed datacentres.
When computer servers create domestic hot water
On the one hand, growing needs for server and data centre capacities. On the other, energy consumption of users who want a cleaner planet – and lower energy bill. How do we reconcile the two? By recycling the energy created by one to meet the needs of the other. That’s the idea behind Stimergy.
What led to your project to recycle the energy produced by computer servers?
Christophe Perron: Simple experience. Have you ever been in a server room when the AC is down? I have. And it didn’t take long to realise how much heat the servers generate, and it’s all wasted. That’s where I got the idea to use that heat. I have engineering training, combining computer science and energy. I developed the idea of installing computer servers right inside heating rooms that also produce hot water. The idea is to install our “digital boiler” (a boiler literally powered by the energy generated by digital technologies) in collective buildings like apartment buildings, university residences or hotels to take advantage of the economies of scale that can be realised. In all, we can guarantee up to 60% of hot water for these structures. We’ve already equipped a building with 29 apartments in Grenoble—where we live—hot water for some of the systems at the University of Lyon III, 110 university dorm rooms in Grenoble and Paris, 40 dwellings in Nantes and a swimming pool in Paris… So, we’re actively helping to reduce energy consumption and use energy more efficiently.
Today, we’re developing data storage and processing activities on our servers. These services are intended for companies or institutions. They can offset energy consumption with their digital transition.
Was your company’s development marked by any specific events?
Christophe Perron: Two phases, I think: before and after our fundraising. Before, Stimergy won the EDF Energie Intelligence competition in 2013. That competition provided an opportunity to meet all kinds of people, including the vice-president of Jean Moulin University of Lyon III and its team who and with whom I developed a project. Plus, it gave me credibility when speaking to investors, banks and potential partners. I was also lucky enough to be incubated in my region for 18 months before creating the company, and to receive backing from INRIA and then Réseau Entreprendre Isère. Once Stimergy was created and we’ve launched our first project, the InnoEnergy Highway® programme came at just the right time to really help us “pick up speed”. Through effective coaching and a significant financial envelope, InnoEnergy’s teams helped us work on industrialising our products and accessing markets. Today, we’re at the beginning of a second exciting acceleration phase following fundraising of €1.25M. It will help us win several contracts, structure our team and offers, as well as establish new strategic partnerships.
The teams at the InnoEnergy Highway® programme did more than provide support, they truly ‘accelerated’ us! They supported us through high-quality personal assistance for the entrepreneurial newbie that I used to be, and through access to an investors’ network necessary for developing the company’s activity.
Since that time, you’ve grown and have had new projects in mind. What advice would you give to someone wanting to create an innovative company?
Christophe Perron: You have to conduct your first experiments quickly and at low cost. They will be crucial for discussions with partners and prospects. And you have to make sure you surround yourself with the functional experts. Although creation and development can start with a single person’s idea, an entrepreneur needs to invest to hire people with the necessary knowledge. That’s what we did at Stimergy when we needed to consider industrialising our products, a phase I had no experience in. The right incubators, the right acceleration programmes like InnoEnergy Highway® and awards also provide opportunities to get known on our market. Through InnoEnergy, we met investors for our fundraising campaign in early 2016—Demeter and Phitrust. Accelerators, networks, financiers, partners, employees… Every link in the chain has to be chosen very carefully.