The head of DNV Research, Carl Arne Carlsen, leads an organisation that is invariably thinking many years down the technological timeline. His is a group that will help determine how business is done, both by DNV and related industries, into the next generation.
Nestled carefully under the responsibility of DNV's CTO and working at the headquarters just outside of Oslo, DNV Research is a tremendously powerful and skilled group within the organisation. Their director, Carl Arne Carlsen, notes off-hand that a large number of DNV's current products and services started their life within the R&D department from 5 to 30 years ago. And today's work concerns business two decades hence.
"We aim to build strategic competence for emerging technologies. We explore future scenarios to identify opportunities and threats to DNV and our customers. Our approach is to combine research with innovations to solve important challenges in a way that meets the objective of DNV: safeguarding life, property and the environment," says Carlsen.
This is power and responsibility. Carl Arne affably gives it all a democratic and procedural spin: "A research board sits down once a year to lay out a group of research programmes that are equally market- and technology-focused." The current programmes are: bio-risk management, energy & resources, lightweight and multifunctional materials, organisations of the future and transportation systems.
These innocuous umbrella words belie projects for safely transporting natural gas and hydrogen, preventing invasive species' release into the environment, producing super-strong lightweight materials with embedded sensors, assessing risks in ICT investment and a host of others. Once one of these projects approaches commercial viability, it usually moves over to one of DNV's business units.
Who really decides?
Carlsen does not hesitate to assign credit for today's rapid state of innovation: "Society in general is pushing change. A popular culture of zero tolerance is demanding that industry do things better all the time, and document performance. Government regulators respond to this by making laws and regulations. Our role in research lies in discovering a workable regulatory framework that satisfies public demand and that is acceptable to industry."
DNV Research uses risk-based analysis, in contrast to prescriptive rules. Risk-based analysis combines the probability of an event happening and its consequences; Prescriptive rules, on the other hand, stipulate a certain level of performance given any and every condition.
DNV is actively applying the risk-based approach to steel performance after years of research. In offshore operations, for example, prescriptive rules may stipulate a steel thickness and quality to withstand a combination of conditions (wave height, temperature, wind speed, etc.) whose probability of actually occurring simultaneously is equivalent to zero. So DNV is exploring ways of assessing the real risks inherent in steel and its failure.
Working with a constellation of European research organisations, DNV Research is participating in a project to analyse rogue waves, their occurrence, their properties and their impact on design practices. Obviously a vessel plying its trade in waters where rogue waves occur needs to be built to withstand such waves.
"We work pro-actively with regulatory authorities worldwide to help them develop effective regulations. They should encourage industrial involvement, and not evasion, which is often the unfortunate result of a draconian legal framework," says Carlsen.
The Global Pay-off
For today's environmentally conscious global citizens, high environmental performance is an absolute good, in and of itself. For companies that need to deliver goods and services in global competition, high environmental performance needs a good business case. "If we can demonstrate that a company will benefit on the bottom-line by undertaking change, and suffer by not doing so, then they will do it," says Carlsen.
An example that illustrates DNV's high-technology research capacity, a solid business case and environmental improvement is the case of ballast water. Ecosystems worldwide are threatened by the introduction of new species from other ecosystems, which can be transported via deep-sea shipping vessels' ballast tanks.
United States' authorities estimate that invasive species cost the country over USD 100 billion every year. With so much money involved, the business potential is a given.
DNV Research is currently analysing the biological threats associated with emissions into the sea, and developing guidelines to manage this risk. As a result, shipowners and managers will be given a case for improving on current performance, and hopefully a framework for doing it.
"Environmental performance is one part of a larger CSR [corporate social responsibility] picture that will only grow in importance. Many of America's Fortune 500 companies include a CSR report in their annual report. We started working on this field long ago, and have already turned CSR service concepts over to DNV's business units. This is developing even quicker than we could foresee, particularly the need for independent performance verification," says Carlsen.
Fundamental to applied
Eventually, much of DNV Research's work gets passed on to business units, where further research and commercialisation takes place. With his background in the shipping business, Carlsen draws attention to the current research work in DNV Maritime's business unit.
"Formal Safety Assessment, unified ship construction standards, knowledge management, load and response, systems and equipment and the environment programme are maritime research areas directly tied to DNV services."
And what new projects will DNV Research move over to the maritime business unit? "We are working with a number of potential projects: nano-technology may be used to develop ultra-lightweight materials with superior coating, as well as superlight fire-resistant walls; innovative ship designs may employ lightweight concrete-steel sandwich materials for improved ship safety; fuel cell technology; IT security; and methods to better ensure the quality of software that is being applied to operate critical equipment and systems onboard ships. Those are just a few," says Carlsen.