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July 28, 2017

Akselos: Maintaining Assets for an Energy Leader

MIT Startup Exchange helps advanced simulation software firm partner with one of the world's biggest oil and gas companies.

Steve Calechman

David Knezevic
In June of 2015, Akselos had under 20 employees. But it also had simulation algorithms developed at MIT that it had turned into a core product for engineering modeling. Today, the MIT spin-off is growing beyond 20 employees and is working on a two-year digital twin initiative with Royal Dutch Shell.

The union came about through the MIT Startup Exchange and MIT Industrial Liaison programs. Before that introduction, Thomas Leurent, Akselos CEO, says that his company had long-range plans to work in the energy field, but, at the time, its experience was in power systems and was focused on breaking into the mining industry. Shell executives came to campus for two days in July 2015, with the intent to find disruptive technologies for the future of construction and engaged with a select set of MIT experts and spin-offs.

Akselos had one hour to make its pitch, Leurent says. In December, the two companies signed their first contract, with Akselos testing its technology on an extensive use case. The findings were delivered in January 2017, and Lourens Post, Shell Global Fluid Flow & Reactor Engineering manager, says that they were “great results” adding that what the company offers “is a great fit for our strategy.”

In February 2017, the two-year project started, with an initial focus on assessing a Shell asset in the Southern North Sea. In the first year, Akselos’ technology will produce a condition-based model, analyzing the structural integrity with more accuracy and detail than was previously capable, Leurent says. In the second year, Akselos will combine this information with sensor data to allow operators to monitor the asset’s health in real-time. Ultimately, the technology will be able to identify looming mechanical problems, estimate the remaining life, determine when parts need to repaired, without having to inspect and test on a scheduled basis. All of this, Leurent says, can mean extending the life of equipment by 20 years and prevent downtime, which in the oil and gas industry can cost $25 million per day.

Leurent says that the jump to such large scale work wasn’t a worry. Oil and gas is an engineering-based industry, and it is common for large companies to outsource projects to smaller ones, but, he adds that the strong start is due in large part to the ILP. MIT is a good credential. It drew Shell to campus in the first place, but the right connection still has to be made. ILP officers know what’s happening throughout the MIT landscape, have decades of industry experience, and are skilled at pairing up a start-up’s innovation with an established company’s need, so momentum is already established. “You know if you get called for a meeting, there’s a good chance there’s a match,” Leurent says.

About Akselos
Akselos enables your engineers to design and assess critical infrastructure via advanced simulation software. We focus on making powerful, highly-customized simulation tools that can be widely used within your company.

The company was founded after 12 years of research at MIT. We license proprietary technology issued from research conducted in Prof. A.T. Patera's group(*) at MIT and supported primarily by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research/Office of Secretary of Defense and the Office of Naval Research. The research led to the award of the largest Deshpande Innovation grant at MIT in 2011 and the company was subsequently founded and secured major industrial firms as customers within a year.

About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.