Successful innovation strategies to overcome the technical challenges in the development of wave energy technologies




Structured Innovation; Wave Energy


Despite the considerable efforts the international research community has made over the last decades, wave energy technologies have failed to achieve the desired design convergence to support their future market growth. Many technical challenges remain unresolved, leading to high costs of energy in comparison with other renewable energy sources. It becomes apparent that incremental innovation alone cannot fill the gap between the current techno-economic estimates and the medium-term policy targets established for wave energy.

A systematic problem-solving approach must be embedded from the outset of technology development to meet the high sector expectations. This approach should support the engineering design processes, facilitate traceability of engineering analysis, and provide practical tools for understanding the wave energy context, formalising wave energy system requirements, guiding techno-economic design decisions, and overcoming technical challenges.

Systems Engineering methods have been successfully applied to developing complex commercial products in many sectors. Among the many tools developed in Systems Engineering, it is worthwhile mentioning two structured innovation techniques: Quality Function Deployment (QFD) for problem formulation and selection [1]; and the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) for concept generation [2]. Unfortunately, their use in wave energy is still limited and fragmented.

Taking as a starting point the technology-agnostic assessment of wave energy capabilities performed in previous research work [3] for the problem formulation and concept selection, the authors have applied QFD to obtain the prioritisation of the technical characteristics that may offer the greatest impact to the overall design for a wave energy system. The main Functional Requirements are mapped to an equal number of Design Parameters extracted from the 39 technical parameters provided by TRIZ. The TRIZ toolkit is then employed to suggest three alternative innovation strategies to overcome wave energy cost and performance limitations.

Firstly, separation principles are used to deal with physical contradictions. Examples of potentially effective strategies involving separation in time, space, scale or condition are proposed.

Subsequently, inventive principles are employed to solve technical contradictions and trade-offs. The four most promising inventive principles that have been found in this implementation are "Local quality", "Dynamism", "Pneumatics or hydraulics", and "Physical or chemical properties". These principles prompt the user to consider a broader range of alternatives and improve creative thinking. Additional examples are given on how these inventive principles could be applied in wave energy.

Finally, a system transition strategy is needed for the most complex challenges. Bypassing contradictory demands involves more radical changes in the functional allocation of requirements to the physical embodiment. Therefore, such a significant pivot in wave energy design can only be made in the initial phases of technology development.

[1]          S. Mizuno, Y. Akao, and K. Ishihara, Eds., QFD, the customer-driven approach to quality planning and deployment. Tokyo, Japan: Asian Productivity Organization, 1994.

[2]          K. Gadd, TRIZ for Engineers: Enabling Inventive Problem Solving, 1st ed. Wiley, 2011. doi: 10.1002/9780470684320.

[3]          P. Ruiz-Minguela, J. M. Blanco, V. Nava, and H. Jeffrey, ‘Technology-Agnostic Assessment of Wave Energy System Capabilities’, Energies, vol. 15, no. 7, p. 2624, Apr. 2022, doi: 10.3390/en15072624.

Author Biographies

Pablo Ruiz-Minguela, TECNALIA, Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA)

Mr Pablo Ruiz-Minguela is Head of Wave Energy projects at TECNALIA. In 2018 he was elected Board Member of the European Ocean Energy Association. Previously, from 2008 to 2010 he acted as the General Manager and Technical Director of OCEANTEC, a spin-off created by TECNALIA and IBERDROLA to develop cost-effective technologies for marine energy conversion.

He offers 30 years of experience in R&D at TECNALIA (18 of them in Wave Energy), has managed over 25 international research projects, and is author of 5 patents for marine energy, 22 publications and 26 conference communications.

MSc in Industrial Engineering (1991) and Postgraduate studies in Electrical Engineering (2008) at the University of Basque Country, Spain; MSc in Advanced Manufacturing Technology (1992) at the University of Manchester, Institute of Science and Technology, UK; MBA (2012) at the Business School ESEUNE, Spain.

Jesús María Blanco, School of Engineering, University of the Basque Country

Industrial Engineer in 1992, (UPV/EHU), Doctor in Industrial Engineering, 1996 (Public University of Navarre) and Master by Research in Offshore Tidal Turbines, 2009 (University of Cranfield, UK). Associate Professor (UPV/EHU), School of Engineering, Department of Energy Engineering, since 1993. Tutor at the OPEN UNIVERSITY (Spain), since 1997.

Head of a doctoral course, 1999, focused on computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Visiting professor at Cranfield University (UK) since 2009, carrying out several research stays since 2008 with a total of 12 months, awarded by the Ministry of Education on the topic related to the optimization of offshore tidal turbines through CFDs. He supervises six doctoral students in this field, having been a member of doctoral thesis tribunals at different national and international level. Co-author of two patents (1998 and 2019), author of several teaching books with ISBNs, as well as books and book chapters in prestigious international publishers. He has led numerous research projects in the field of energy, in particular in renewables, among which the recent MATHEO project (KK-2019/00085) in marine renewable energies stands out. In addition, I have also numerous projects derived from R&D contracts with companies and public administrations.

Member of 6 Tribunals of the ACREDITA PLUS and 2 SIC (INTERNATIONAL) labels for ANECA (National Agency for Evaluation and Quality Assessment), having evaluated up to now more than 10 grade and master programmes worldwide.

Member of the consolidated research group of the Basque Government (2013-2018) IT781-13, principal investigator of the consolidated research group of the Basque Government (2019-2021) IT1314-19 and also principal investigator of the consolidated research group of the Basque Government (2022-2025) IT1415-22.

Member of ASHRAE 1998, member of the Spanish Society of Numerical Methods in Engineering, 1999 and regular Referee for several international journals (Elsevier) such as, Applied Thermal Engineering since 2004 or Energy since 2007 among others, as well as member of the Editorial Committee of several international journals: “Energy ”, Member of the UPV/EHU strategic planning committee since 2005, member of the board of the Institute of Fluid Dynamics Studies, 2006, member of ASME, 2006 and member of the scientific committee of the Spanish Society of Numerical Methods in Engineering, 2008 and member of the steering committee of the Spanish Society for Clime and Refrigeration (ATECYR) since 2009, being actually the President of the Delegation of ATECYR for the Basque Country.

It has been awarded two prizes by the OPEN UNIVERSITY for research projects in minimizing the environmental impacts associated with certain industrial processes in 2005 and 2007 and also awarded in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively by the UPV/EHU for the quality of the teaching procedures implemented in the Bologna teaching-learning context. Awarded with a grant by MICROSOFT artificial intelligence (2020) with prof. G. Iglesias (University College Cork, Ireland) in the AI for Earth program. Research award CUBA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (2016), and recognized as a Researcher associated to Tecnalia (November 2020).

Chairman of the International Congress of Numerical Methods in Engineering 2013 (CMN'2013), and the Heat Powered Cycles Conference 2022 (HPCC’2022) and member of the scientific committee of several international congresses among which ECCOMASS'2014, CMN'2015, ECCOMASS'2016, CMN'2017, EWTEC 2021 and organizer of the following edition of the European Wave and Tidal Conference (EWTEC 2023).

Director of the MORE master (Master Offshore Renewable energy) since 2016 and Coordinator of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master REM (Renewable Energy in the Marine environment) since 2018 as well as the recently awarded Erasmus Mundus REM PLUS since 2020.

Holder of 4 consecutive six-year research periods, the last one was granted in July 2020 (period 2014-2019).

Co-director of 7 doctoral theses already presented since 2010 in the field of fluid mechanics and energy, all of them with an outstanding cum laude qualification, 4 of them with International Doctorate mention and 2 with Industrial Doctorate mention respectively.

As of October 2022, I have co-authored 56 papers with a JCR impact index, 43 in the first-second quartiles and 13 corresponding to the third-fourth ones, in the areas of “energy and fuels” and “engineering marine”. In addition, I have published additional 8 papers with SJR impact index and another 12 in the category of other articles, the last one invited in the “Revista economía industrial MINECO”. I have also co-authored 72 research conference papers, plus other 29 in the teaching category and other 32 invited conferences, all of them with proceedings, in addition to 15 books and 20 book chapters (1 more in press), all of them in publishers of reference.

The hindex is 14 (Scopus) and the total number of citations is 631, with 410 citations during the last five years (2018-2022).

Vincenzo Nava, TECNALIA, Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA)

Vincenzo Nava got his PhD in Ocean Engineering in May 2009 at the “Mediterranea” University of Reggio Calabria, Italy, where he also obtained his B.Sc. (2003) and M.Sc. (2005) in Civil Engineering and Hydraulics. From 2006 until 2010, he joined the Department of Mechanical, Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University (Houston, USA), working on several projects related to stochastic mechanics of floating bodies. In 2007 he got an internship at BP America, Houston. From 2009 until 2013, he was a contract instructor at the “Mediterranea” University of Reggio Calabria (Italy), teaching Environmental Hydraulics and Watercourse Management classes for M.Sc. students in Environmental Engineering. In 2012 he developed research activities at the Instituto Superior Técnico of Lisbon, Portugal, at the Department of Naval Architecture (CENTEC). Since 2013 he has been working at the Energy and Environment Division of Tecnalia, Research and Innovation (area of Offshore Renewable Energies). Since 2017 he has held a joint position as a BCAM Researcher in the CFD group at BCAM, Basque Centre for Applied Mathematics, working in the Knowledge Transfer Unit. In 2018, he was appointed as an Instructor for the class of Operations and maintenance of marine energy arrays for Master More, organised by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). In 2019 he was appointed as Instructor of the same course for the Master REM, an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and organised in four universities in Spain (UPV/EHU), UK (Scotland) (Strathclyde University), France (ECN) and Norway (NTNU). He is the author and co-author of several peer-reviewed papers and contributions presented at international conferences and international peer-reviewed journals, as well as chapters of books and other kinds of publications. He is the principal investigator of the project VIVIR (funded by the Iberdrola Foundation), DIGIMAR and MATHEOLO (funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation), IA4TES (funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation in the framework of the NextGenerationEU fundings), as well as in local funded projects (ExpertIA). He has worked in European, national and regional projects deploying technical activities. He has 15 years of experience as a Civil professional engineer, and his major expertise fields are hydrodynamics and marine structures.  



How to Cite

P. Ruiz-Minguela, J. M. Blanco, and V. Nava, “Successful innovation strategies to overcome the technical challenges in the development of wave energy technologies”, Proc. EWTEC, vol. 15, Sep. 2023.