Helping start-ups grow
An example with Intact
Published on April 12, 2022
Alongside industrial and academic partners, Air Liquide is also working with start-ups to accelerate its innovation strategy. The goal: to develop the Group’s future technologies and enrich its portfolio of sustainable solutions.
Hugo Cence is co-founder and CEO of Intact, a start-up that develops ultrasonic and 3D quality control tests for industrial equipment. After studying material and structural mechanics, he worked in the Middle East and then in Marseille, France, in the R&D laboratory of an engineering company. In 2015, Hugo joined Ekoscan1, along with a friend from his graduating class with whom he founded Intact in 2021, in cooperation with ALIAD, the venture capital investor of Air Liquide
Intact develops industrial quality control tests. What does this involve in concrete terms?
Using unique technology, we have designed a robot that allows us to model the interior of a structure in 3D, based on ultrasonic tests, without affecting the integrity of the equipment. Our solution enables quality control of all types of metallic or composite structures (pipes, aircraft hulls, etc.). It is currently used on Air Liquide sites, but also by companies such as ArcelorMittal, EDF and ExxonMobil, which see several advantages in the technology: avoiding industrial risks and improving the safety of operators, particularly for maintenance operations at height. We can also provide predictive maintenance using algorithms that estimate the remaining life of equipment.
ALIAD, Air Liquide’s venture capital investor, has invested in Intact. What motivated this partnership?
To start, there was the meeting between Ekoscan and Air Liquide’s R&D teams in 2015. Together, we developed a customized monitoring solution for the inspection of hydrogen purification units and a robot to deploy this technology in an automated manner at Air Liquide’s industrial sites. Then we decided to create the start-up Intact together. This allowed us to structure a collaboration that had already existed for several years. ALIAD participates in Intact’s governance and is helping us to grow faster, for example by taking a minority stake in the Canadian company, Arcanite2, to make it an exclusive partner and an operational base for development in North America.
What does Air Liquide bring you, beyond the financial investment?
We regularly exchange with their materials engineering experts to better understand the equipment we control. We also learn a lot about equipment integrity from the engineers who design gas production units, especially those related to hydrogen. Commercially, the fact that we have been able to test our technologies in different contexts for Air Liquide enables us to propose very convincing business cases to our other customers.
2. Company specialized in non-destructive testing for the industry.