50 Leading Companies of the Year 2023
The Silicon Review
Too often geoscience domain experts struggle to communicate across silos and value is lost. EMerald Geomodelling’s aim is to break down this information barrier to maximize value and reduce geological risk in the infrastructure industry. Andi Pfaffhuber, CEO started EMerald Geomodelling to scale a solution proven in Norway to make the global infrastructure industry more sustainable. The geotechnical industry is ripe for disruption after following traditional workflows for decades. The company seeks to trigger that disruption.
EMerald Geomodelling reduces geological risk in infrastructure projects to enable sustainable development with reduced cost, time, and environmental impact. EMerald provides this value as a tech-enabled service crafting understandable 3D-models by unlocking domain-siloed data through machine learning. Asset owners save time and reduce ground investigation budgets by more than 30%. A risk reduction worth 20 million USD has been achieved in projects in Europe and Brazil.
In conversation with Andi A. Pfaffhuber, CEO of EMerald Geomodelling
Q. What are the challenges you had to face while developing solutions for EMerald Geomodelling? How did you overcome them?
EMerald has had the opportunity and challenge of being a first mover implementing unknown technology in a conservative industry. Rather than saving some percent on a particular corporate KPI, our tech challenges outdated standards and inspires asset owners to think differently about ground risks. The technology is scientifically credible but largely unknown. A core challenge and critical steppingstone has been in educating the industry to take the leap away from traditional methods. We have had to overcome the difficulty of communicating rich information models into digestible chunks that can ensure safe, timely and cost efficient infrastructure development.
Q. Where do you stand as a company in the current market landscape? And what are you doing to stay ahead of the curve?
International scaling is ongoing with a track record of exposure on all continents. Currently we cover 30 – 40% market share in Brazil, focusing on the country’s ambitious railway development pipeline. We keep pushing technology development, strongly guided by customer success criteria. The tech development pipeline is further tuned towards additional future market segments that are not accessible with today’s solutions. Today’s core market is large, greenfield developments dependent on helicopter surveys. Additional markets will become accessible through drone-based and urban technologies.
Q. Unanticipated Costs, Potential for Setbacks, and Quality Suffers are an inevitable part of infrastructure projects. How do you overcome these with your solutions?
These are the key pain points we attack. Roughly 90% of global large infrastructure projects go over budget, between 20 to 50 % on average. One of the key reasons for such overruns is unexpected geological hazards. Less geological uncertainty leads to fewer nasty surprises; we strive for a future with no unnecessary losses.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful CEO?
Passion, stamina, and discipline! Fundamentally, a strong passion for EMerald’s vision is the driving power to push forward and to guide and motivate the team. Building and growing a company is a continuous roller-coaster of glorious and devastating moments, and you need stamina to stay engaged. Ultimately, passion and stamina must be balanced by keeping focusing on one battle at a time and the necessary discipline to prioritise hard.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
The current key enabler to our service is airborne Geoscanning carried out by helicopter. Joint development work with one of our Geoscanning partners is progressing to a drone-based solution. Covering projects with drones rather than helicopters drastically reduces costs, increases data resolution and thus provides smaller assets such as industrial real estate access to our solutions. Our value proposition will thus become accessible to projects of all sizes.
Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?
From each customer and each project, we learn and gain new potential to extend our technology and spreading into new countries, cultures and challenges. This expands the impact we can make on our industry. Our core value is to combine siloed subsurface data and to reduce time and budgets for traditional intrusive investigations. More than that, we see the opportunity for revolutionizing how planners think about and calculate ground risk. Our next step is to build on EMerald’s success in Brazil and to contribute to the vast pipeline of rail and road projects in India.
Meet the leader behind the success of EMerald Geomodelling
Andi A. Pfaffhuber, CEO of EMerald Geomodelling (born and raised in Austria) is a geophysicist by training (PhD) and a technologist by heart with a passion to solve real world problems. He builds on a substantial industry background and 10+ years of leadership thriving to build and inspire diverse teams. His carrier took a turn back in 2007, when love brought him to Norway. This change exposed him to a different culture and technical field. He transitioned from being a polar researcher in Germany into an engineering geophysicist at Norway’s world-renowned geotechnical research and consulting powerhouse, NGI. It was there, where he got the opportunity to see the practical geotechnical applicability of the very method he studied throughout his scientific period. NGI provided Andi the breeding ground to build a team of innovative cross-discipline experts, ultimately cumulating in a working prototype ready for commercialization. EMerald and Geoscanning are a classic innovation applying a technique developed in one field to a solve a problem in another field.