For a long time, the topic of digitisation was associated with an environmentally friendly alternative to e.g. printed products. However, the increasing demand for energy was often not taken into account in this context. Little by little, critical voices are also being raised: For example, newspaper articles talk about “conflicting goals” or even “fire accelerators for environmental destruction”. This is a complex problem for which there are only a few solutions to date. Our start-up of the week, Qarnot Energy, is of the opinion: Why not combine the advantages of digitalisation with the sustainable use of energy? In our interview with CEO and Co-Founder Paul Benoit, we talk about how exactly this works and how existing potential can be used in a targeted manner.
Hi Paul, thank you so much for taking the time for us today. For a better start: How do you describe Qarnot Computing in one sentence?
Qarnot reuses wated heat from IT computations to heat buildings and water sustainibly.
A very recent subject. How exactly does this project shape up in terms of your target groups and the technology behind it?
Qarnot is the first company in the world which reuses waste heat from IT computations to heat buildings and water.
Qarnot has two kinds of clients: computing clients buying computing power on the one hand, heating clients who need ecological heat in their buildings on the other hand.Qarnot developed a computing-heater, QH•1, and a digital water boiler, QB•1, which both embed microprocessors as heat sources and are connected to the fibre optic. By spreading IT resources where heat is directly needed, Qarnot reduces the energy consumption and the carbon footprint of computing.
The more you need heat, the more we send computations. The faster your microprocessors are running, the more they release heat, which is directly reused within the building.Computing-heater, QH•1 and digital water boiler, QB•1, are installed in apartments, social housings, public buildings, swimming pools, heating networks…
You just said you’re the first company to use such a technology. Do you see this as your USP too?
We have been the first in the world to launch that kind of technology (patent in almost every country in the world). Qarnot proposes a digital circular economy approach in which heat, a waste for computing, becomes a resource within the building. Qarnot succeeds at linking two distinctive kinds of actors: computing/IT ressources and building. Our approach for green IT makes our technologies disruptive, innovative and ecological.
How does the associated business model look like? Do you have different approaches for “producers” and “users”?
Our unique approach is both ecological and economic, on two main business sides:
– we provide green cloud computing cheaper than others (2 to 4 times)
– we heat buildings for free once the investment is done. The “heating clients” first buy a computing-heater or a digital-boiler, and then we reimbourse the electricity bills, we do the maintenance and we replace the machines for free every 7-8 years.The computing-heater embeds sensors and interfaces that provide services towards smart building: air quality sensors, movement sensors, temperature sensors, luminosity sensors, QI charging module, NFC, Wifi Module…
You have just mentioned a few potential customers, such as public institutions or apartment owners. Which market segments exactly do you address within this target group?
We only work with B2B clients, that are divided into two parts:
In the computing area we provide high performance computing for big banks (BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Natixis in France), 3D animation studios (our last client is Illumination Mac Guff), fluid dynamics, machine learning (AI), molecular docking…
In the heating sector we work with social landlords, public buildings, apartments buildings, swimming pools, heating network managers…Most of our clients are French, most of the buildings we equiped are in France. We have a new project in Finland, where we installed digital boilers to provide hot water for a heating network.
We are starting right now to launch our business abroad, especially in Germany-Austria-Switzerland, UK and in the Nordic Countries.
It looks like you guys have already established yourselves pretty well. What are the latest developments in your company?
Our products (computing heater and digital boiler) are already launched on the market. Time showed they are working very well, and clients are happy with them.
Our computing clients are very satisfied too: the contracts we have are getting bigger, we succeed at having new ones and we recently made efforts to widen the sectors we address (e.g. AI, pharmaceutics, industry…). Our latest news is a successful 6M€ fundraising we achieved in March, with several prestigious investors: Engie, Groupe Casino, A/O Proptech and Caisse des Dépôts (public group serving the public interest and the country’s economic development).