New leader in NCE Smart Energy Markets: - I already know the cluster, the field and the partners well

Inge Michael Bilet (47) takes over from Eli Haugerud at NCE Smart Energy Markets and will lead an active and international cluster that has never been more relevant - "The energy crisis, the need for renewable energy sources and developments in the energy market are at the heart of our activities.

So says new cluster leader Inge Michael Bilet. He is by no means new to the field, so he knows what he is talking about.

The Fredrikstad man has experience in market analysis, product development, sales and marketing from the grocery industry, the automotive industry and the energy industry, and since 1 May 2020 he has been employed at Smart Innovation Norway. There he has worked across clusters, disciplines and departments.

On 1 October 2022, he was promoted to Head of the Norwegian Centre of Expertise Smart Energy Markets (NCE SEM) energy cluster.

- Urgent need for new solutions

The broad background from previous working life and the 2.5 years at Smart Innovation Norway will come in handy in the new job.

- In-house, I have been a business developer in the cluster team and an advisor to start-ups in the Smart Innovation Venture department. I have worked with the research department and their projects in energy systems and energy markets, and I have assisted our two other clusters, the Cluster for Applied AI and the Cluster for Decommissioning and Repurposing. I have a good knowledge of the communities I will lead and collaborate with," says Bilet.

In light of the energy crisis, energy market developments and the need for renewable energy sources, NCE Smart Energy Markets is more relevant than ever.

- There is an urgent need for new solutions to improve the efficiency of energy supply. There is a huge potential to extract more capacity from the current electricity grid, thus avoiding long-term and very costly investments to expand the grid," Bilet points out. 

He is clear that there is great potential for Norwegian companies to develop efficient energy solutions on top of the energy players' information and data structures.

- We are talking here about countless solutions in energy optimisation, distributed production, storage and use, multi-vectors, sensor technology, digitalisation/AI and on to the value chain for batteries, etc. Both the innovation communities, clusters and the supplier industry are dependent on publicly supported projects and good consortia to succeed with good interaction with large and demanding customers. We will concentrate on this teamwork between cluster partners, other businesses and the public funding agencies in the time ahead," says Bilet.

Gold re-certified

Another factor that makes the energy cluster highly relevant is that it has just been approved as a gold certified cluster for the second time by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA). The first certification took place in 2019.

Gold certification is the highest award a cluster can receive in Norway, and at the beginning of December only nine of Innovation Norway's 38 clusters had valid gold certification.

- We are extremely proud and happy about this. It is a narrow needle eye to get through and shows that we run the cluster with high quality and in a good way, says a satisfied Bilet.

Eli Haugerud has led NCE Smart Energy Markets until she handed over the baton to Bilet, and she is happy to hand over a cluster in very good shape.

- "This is an active cluster, and with today's energy challenges as a backdrop, the cluster has probably never been more relevant than it is right now," Haugerud comments.

She will now take on new tasks as Head of Smart Innovation Communities, the department for the three clusters and Smart Cities and Communities.

Inge Michael Bilet and Eli Haugerud
Inge Michael Bilet has taken over as cluster leader of NCE Smart Energy Markets from Eli Haugerud. She joins as Head of Communities and will be responsible for Smart Innovation Norway's three clusters and the Smart City work. PHOTO: Anja Lillerud

Energy demand requires flexibility

One of Bilet's main tasks in the period ahead will be to ensure further progress in the strategy work that NCE Smart Energy Markets is currently undertaking. The aim is to further focus the cluster on the challenges that affect the whole of society in the areas of energy, energy systems and renewable energy.

- The goal of sufficient renewable energy in the right place at the right time can only be achieved through precise coordination between all energy actors in the power system. The cluster mobilises and facilitates cooperation to exploit new information infrastructures and prepare small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop solutions," explains Bilet.

Any new industry to be established in Southern Norway needs "new" power. New power in this case means capacity that does not exist in the grid and needs to be provided.

- To reduce the need to expand the electricity grid, it is important to increase the flexibility of the grid with, for example, local solar and wind generation, battery storage and conscious use. This must be combined with solutions that reduce or manage consumption," says the cluster leader.

NCE Smart Energy Markets will continue to coordinate projects and facilitate cooperation between actors in the energy supply chain, and the 47-year-old is looking forward to 2023.

- I am very much looking forward to continuing the good work in NCE Smart Energy Markets," says Inge Michael Bilet.