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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Farad ai

19 May 2021 – Farad.ai's vision is to enable the current electrical infrastructure to run on 100% low carbon energy. To achieve this, they are developing an AI-powered digital twin of the power system (Farad.ai Sabre) and related site selection products (Farad.ai Compass) that will support energy stakeholders in their move towards a zero-carbon future. We caught up with their founder and CEO, Ali Safari, to find out more…

For those in our community who may not be familiar with your work, can you give us an elevator pitch for Farad.ai?

Farad.ai is a progressive company that is founded on innovation in technology and data analytics to help the power sector achieve its net zero target. Our work entails developing an AI-powered digital twin for the power system.

At the moment the industry is operating blindly. This was possible in the past due to predictable supply and demand, but resulted in huge amounts of waste: a report from 2015 found that 54% of electricity produced in the UK was lost before reaching households. On top of this, the energy system is changing drastically with the rise of renewable energy and increased electricity consumption. Our Farad.ai Sabre platform creates the visibility needed for the industry.

 What problem are you solving – and how?

The power industry is already undergoing a transformation, and it is imperative that power providers are equipped to lead the transition rather than falling behind. Over 50% of energy is wasted before it reaches households, partly because there is a lack of visibility on how electricity is distributed in the supply chain. To function properly, the grid must be balanced (matching supply and demand). A lack of visibility makes balancing the grid difficult and unless the system is modernised, blackouts and power failures like this year's crisis in Texas will become very common. 

To solve this issue for power providers, we at Farad.ai are developing a digital head torch, a map if you will, to navigate this transition. Our Farad.ai Sabre platform will be the single source of truth for energy stakeholders that need advanced analytics. Our vision is to help the electrical infrastructure, which is based on extremely complex engineering designed more than 100 years ago, to operate in the new energy era using AI and cutting-edge technology.

Share a few of your most memorable moments as a start-up to date (the good and the bad!)

When we launched our Farad.ai Sabre platform, one of our customers (a FTSE 500 energy company) immediately adopted it because it was able to add value to their operations. Shortly after, they began using the product to communicate with their customers, to better understand the implications of the energy transition and to make more informed business decisions. This was a great vote of confidence on our direction of travel as a young business.

Our first onboarding meeting with the whole team is also one of my favourite memories. It was incredibly gratifying to see my vision come to life and to see a multinational, highly experienced team coming from three key disciplines (power system, AI and graph theory), as well as commercial and design backgrounds, working together. It was an inspiring reminder of the upcoming challenge and an affirmation that we had the perfect team and advisory board to deliver on this cutting-edge issue. 

However, when we developed our first product, we made the mistake of developing technology before finding a market for it. It was the wrong approach. I do not consider this a bad memory per se but a learning opportunity. We iterated our strategy and learnt a key lesson: customers should be at the centre of everything we do. We have adapted since and are now extremely responsive to our customers' needs as we fight climate change together and move to net zero.

What influence has Cambridge had on your sustainability and business journey?

I initially came to Cambridge in 2016 to train as a Nuclear Engineer. I naively thought nuclear energy was the solution to climate change. However, after studying nuclear fission and its financial requisites, I couldn’t justify spending taxpayer money on developing more nuclear power.

I then thought that Nuclear Fusion could be the answer, so in 2017 I carried out my fieldwork thesis at the JET reactor, located at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxford. JET is one of the world's most advanced fusion reactors in the world and is still at the R&D stage. The concept underpinning this area is that a single reactor’s proper design would create clean, safe and sustainable energy to power the world’s future growth.

However, the running joke in the nuclear industry holds; every 50 years we say we need 50 more years to reach this target! I realised that this was not the avenue I should pursue if I wanted to create an immediate impact on climate change. 

Discussing this with my mentors at CISL, I decided to approach the renewable energy sector from a commercial angle. Working at a leading privately-owned renewable energy investment firm, I analysed the trends in the market and the associated problems of the future. This gave me access to a wide network in the industry and an exceptional insight to energy providers’ pain points. I then joined Entrepreneur First to start Farad.ai and used business as a tool to have an impact on fighting climate change. CISL helped put me on the right path to pursue climate change solutions that have financial incentives, and I believe this is the best way to accelerate progress.

If you could only work on one project for a year to transform the business, what would it be and why?

Unfortunately, the pace of the power industry’s transition is so slow that we wouldn’t be able to achieve much in one year alone. However, we have set up the foundations for long-term success and are confident that our digital twin will help modernise the energy industry in the coming years.

What we have achieved so far in two years is astonishing, and we are just getting started. We have assembled a diverse, cutting-edge team as well as a world class advisory group. We have forged strategic partnerships and relationships with key stakeholders in the industry and ran a successful pilot with a FTSE500 energy company in our first year.

Most importantly, we believe in the urgency of the climate change issue on a global scale, and this is why our team is continually designing and delivering new and innovative digital solutions.

What’s next for Farad.ai?

We have achieved a lot as a team and as a business. We have assembled a world-class team and developed our technology platform (Farad.ai Sabre) so that we can offer the energy industry the analytics they need to navigate the energy transition. 

But we are still at “day 1”: we are innovating on a daily basis and improving upon our technology, commercial offerings and operations processes. The UK is leading the energy transition on a global scale, and we have an incredibly unique opportunity to lead the analytical game and solidify the UK’s position as a thought leader worldwide. 

In the next couple of months we will be completing our project for UKRI and starting projects with leading energy players to help them navigate site selection of energy assets. We are optimistic that we will have a transformational impact on the industry and help accelerate the renewable energy transition. If this sounds like something you might want to find out more about, please feel free to get in touch to discuss this further!


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About the author

Ali Safari

Ali Safari is founder and CEO of Farad.ai. Passionate about solving the climate change problem with technology, Ali trained as a nuclear engineer at Cambridge University and researched Nuclear Fusion at CCFE. Previously he worked in Low Carbon, a leading family office investing in renewable energy development projects. His current mission is to enable the current electrical grid to run on 100% low carbon energy.

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Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.

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