30/03/2021  •  6 mins read

Innovation Gateway at PETRONAS

Technology at your fingertips.

Brigitte Rozario

“How do we make technology shopping easier? What if we have an online marketplace like Lazada or Shopee, but for tech?”

Those were among the countless thoughts running in Fadhlan Nik Abdul Aziz’s head before he put his foot down and decided that he was going to make it happen.

Developing a solution for technical problems encountered in oil and gas operations can sometimes be time consuming. Often the search begins upon discovering the problem. After huddling together to brainstorm and search for the solution, the engineers would have to develop or procure the tech before finally applying and testing it. 

Sometimes, the team at PETRONAS Group Research and Technology (GR&T) would receive requests to contribute their expertise to solve specific problems in the group’s plant operations.

Believing that he has got the solution to speed up this process, Fadhlan and his team, who are in charge of Innovation Management at GR&T, launched Innovation Gateway@PETRONAS (iG@P) in 2017. 

At the time, this dual-pronged platform comprised Technology Challenge, a crowdsourcing initiative for tech solutions to overcome challenges, and Technology Marketplace where innovators can submit their technology for evaluation and admission to the PETRONAS tech catalogue. 

Fadhlan Nik Abdul Aziz

Head of Innovation Management, PETRONAS Group Research and Technology

The idea hit home for PETRONAS.

As an energy multinational with massive operations scattered throughout Malaysia and the world, a consolidated and current repository that is easily searchable by its users could save the engineers and experts a lot of time in consultation, research and sourcing for solutions. While for more specific problems, the Technology Challenge allows them to crowdsource for solutions from external tech providers.

Three years since its launch, iG@P found itself flourishing at a most unlikely time.

In the throes of a pandemic, the submission of technology into iG@P more than doubled towards the end of 2020 compared with 2019. 

“We received a lot of submissions from both international and local technology providers, particularly during the COVID-19 movement control. As a large population of the world were at home due to lockdown restrictions, our platform became a valuable channel for technology providers and innovators to share their offerings. This helped expand the iG@P Technology Catalogue,” says Fadhlan.

Today, iG@P consists of three components.

Creating a Seamless Experience

In 2020, iG@P implemented a range of enhancements to make submissions easier and faster. It is not just about convenience and speed. Fadhlan explains that iG@P needs to create a pleasant enough user experience that will get technologists and innovators coming back. 

“We want to create a delightful experience for users. For tech customers, we have made the platform more interactive whereby they can insert feedback, whether it is a one-star or five-star rating, based on their experience using that technology. They can also leave comments on what this technology is suitable for. Their review would help other users who may want to use the technology but are not sure if it is a suitable solution.

“We have created the Technology Marketplace as an online technology mall. People can look into the specifications, see how many products are currently available, and chat with the people in iG@P to find out about its suitability. If they want to procure an item, they can add it to cart and check out just like you would on online shopping platforms,” Fadhlan says.

Like any online shopping platform, ease of use is paramount.

Beyond that, the level of interactivity could provide users with more confidence in the system and an increased willingness to participate.

“From the external parties' point of view, we will make it more interactive by having a ‘Send Message’ column. If you have any issues, you can send a message and we have a chatbot that will respond and get the FAQs answered immediately,” adds Fadhlan, enthusing that this would help users who encountered issues with submission and increase the chances of an impactful submission of technology for deliberation. 

He believes that these upgrades on the site will make it easier than ever for all parties to interact, thus speeding up technology adoption and deployment. 

Piloting and Deploying Solutions

Last year was a big one for iG@P, with three challenges cast to the public to fish out the best solutions for PETRONAS' pain points.

Since 2017, 11 Technology Challenges have been held and nine winners have been picked. Among these winning solutions, four have been deployed and replicated to various PETRONAS sites, with a few still waiting in the pipeline to be piloted, and are planned for deployment in 2021. 

The iG@P team will deploy these solutions in stages. First, in PETRONAS operations – Upstream, Downstream, and Gas and New Energy (GNE) in Malaysia. This will be followed by domestic Production Sharing Contractors (PSC), then regional PETRONAS operations and those beyond Southeast Asia such as Turkmenistan, Sudan, Iraq, Mexico and Canada.

“We believe all the technology being implemented in 2020 can exceed RM90 million in value creation in cost savings, cost avoidance and cash generation,” he says.

Reaching a Wider Audience

For the Technology Catalogue to be successful, there needs to be active participation and ample technologies. Not missing a beat, Fadhlan and team took promotional efforts virtual at the height of lockdown by aggressively participating in exhibitions and conferences.

“We leverage these events to share with our peers what iG@P can offer to the world. These interactions during the conferences also gave us insights to what kind of technology the industry is looking for and how we can improve this platform. 

“We have since received some great responses from events such as Energy Industries Council (EIC) and Malaysian Oil and Gas Services Exhibition and Conference (MOGSEC), Future Oil & Gas, Virtual Energy Export Conference, Asian Downstream Summit, and the Offshore Technology Conference Asia (OTC Asia),” says Fadhlan.

To encourage more submissions, Fadhlan says that one day, iG@P may further simplify the submission process. Right now, there is an online form and the technology provider needs to attach videos, PDFs, PowerPoints, technical datasheets, or any other form of attachment for the submission. 

“We need to adjust with the times and make it such that a 60-second video is sufficient to understand what the value proposition is for the customers and PETRONAS,” says Fadhlan.

“We also need to make it easier to match business pain points with the right solutions,” says Fadhlan, envisioning algorithms and analytics for the platform akin to that of the Tinder dating app to match users with the relevant tech solutions.

Towards the Future

“Once we reach closer to 50 per cent of the take-up, we can say that the iG@P Technology Catalogue has brought about a good impact to PETRONAS by providing all these new solutions across our assets,” says Fadhlan.

Beyond servicing the needs of a single company, iG@P holds potential for far more. It is an easily replicable system that could not only revolutionalise the way a company sources for tech solutions, but also create opportunities for countless cross-disciplinary collaboration for tech companies large and small.

Click here to visit Innovation Gateway@PETRONAS.

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