Ignite Stories: Alfa Laval & Reliefed

After meeting through Ignite in 2018, the Swedish corporate Alfa Laval and startup Reliefed began a range of exploratory pilots that have grown into a long-term business relationship with new opportunities.

Alfa Laval focuses on separation technology, heat exchangers, and fluid handling solutions with a clear ambition to increase the sustainability of their products. When they met Reliefed, they were looking for new materials, ways to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of its products as well as improve manufacturing efficiency.

Reliefed developed z.trusion®, a patented 3D manufacturing technology enables the creation of 3D structures in a single process step and lead to large material savings. Together the companies began a Proof of Concept (POC) in 2019 to explore the utilization of alternative materials for existing applications in combination with the new design approach of the z.trusion® process. Alfa Laval financed the project, that had the potential to reduce the CO2 footprint of a specific product by 60%.

Three-Phased Proof of Concept

From the beginning there was a focus on exploring together with the establishment of an NDA and clear process for the collaboration; an important aspect for deeptech which requires long-term engagement.

“We divided the POC into three phases, spanning approximately two years. During this time, Alfa Laval paid for the work, while we designed together the tooling and prototyping. In certain cases, especially when working with some IT solutions, it is possible to achieve proof of concept within two or three weeks. But when it comes to deeptech, however, this two-year timeframe is relatively quick,” says Anders Nyander, Concept Project Manager at Alfa Laval.

This process was helped by having a clear understanding and communication between the two companies.

“It was very good that Alfa Laval had a well-defined process and structure for conducting projects like this, and that we have very clear goals in mind. It helped us allocate our resources and take this step by step,” says Lovisa Högberg, Head of Sales & Marketing at Reliefed Technologies.

Lovisa Högberg (Reliefed)

Developing an On-Going Relationship

This initial pilot project ended in 2021 with a successful validation and prototype that met the original goals of the collaboration but it also led to additional opportunities.

The companies are now conducting a spin-off POC to further explore the potential of the process technology for handling exotic materials that are very hard to handle with conventional technology, creating a pathway for further innovation and development

“We thought that with everything we had learned, it was possible to combine this technology for a spinoff of the POC. So now we are digging into another technology field as well, even more challenging and probably more avant-garde. We have just started the new POC, while we are also discussing some completely different collaboration possibilities within the emerging hydrogen market,” says Anders.

The pilots also allowed Reliefed to better understand what their technology was capable of and how it could be implemented.

“We have gained a lot of knowhow and maturity in-house on what we actually can achieve with the technology, which is also very positive for us as a startup,” adds Lovisa.

Anders Nyander (Alfa Laval)

Secrets to Ongoing Success

Due to the long-term nature of deeptech that requires years of engagement, there are some important factors for success. Perhaps foremost of these is the need for open and honest communication.

“The ability to engage in open and candid discussions with Anders and his team fostered a straight-forward and honest working relationship, which we really appreciate. The letter of intent with Alfa Laval was also critical for us in terms of getting credibility as a startup, particularly with our investors. It also conveyed a sense of commitment and there is a buy-in from Alfa Laval to move forward if we achieve our intended results,” explains Lovisa.

For Anders, it is also important to note that these types of collaborations are rarely the same.

Alfa Laval and Reliefed Technologies won the Ignite Sustainability Hero Award 2022

“Some collaborations can be very quick and intense, and others can take a long time and also be intense. The relationship between the companies can also vary. In this case, Alfa Laval is the startup customer, but in other cases Alfa Laval is the potential supplier to the startup.”

This ongoing collaboration highlights what is possible when both parties are committed to open communication, clear process and willingness to push boundaries and explore new potential as it arises for a more sustainable future.

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