Faster and Simpler Installation of Underground Cables in Medium Voltage (MV) Lines

Collaboration with Enel Grids
Challenge under evaluation

Challenge overview


Enel Grids is always looking for innovative solutions that can improve the growth and maintenance of its electrical infrastructure while reducing the environmental impact of installation activities.

Digging, trenching and tunneling are part of the traditional approach for installing electrical cables in the underground installation process. Do you have any new and innovative processes, tools, or applications or can improve how Enel currently installs Medium Voltage cables underground?

This is an electronic Request-for-Partners (eRFP) Challenge for International Institutions, NGOs, Social Enterprises, Startups & SMEs, University/Research centers, individuals; the Solver will need to submit a written proposal to be evaluated by the Seeker with the goal of establishing a collaborative partnership.

- Login or register to start solving this Challenge! After logging in, click ‘View Challenge Details’ to submit your solution on the Enel Open Innovability® platform -



Medium Voltage cables are used across the world for a variety of uses. As their voltage range is between 6 kV and 33kV, they are used as infrastructure with applications ranging from utilities, commercial, transportation, and more. Enel uses Medium Voltage cables as a critical part of its generation and distribution activities across the world. However, the underground installation of Medium Voltage cables is very complex and time-consuming to date.

Engineers and ground teams spend a long time identifying underlying services, digging, laying the ducts, installing the cables, jointing, closing the excavation, and then reinstating the initial conditions of the pavement. Currently the activity of Medium Voltage line installation follows these general steps:

  • Trench excavation with the following dimension: depth 80-150 cm (depending on the rated voltage of the cable to be installed and by the requirements established by the fund manager), width 50 cm, length dependent on cable route (generally at least above 20m).
  • Laying of the protective tube that will contain the cable.
  • Covering the tube with a first layer of sand or inert material, with a warning strip on top.
  • Closing of the trench with required inert material and soil or asphalt on top.

These activities could have different conditions, depending on local and private conditions of the area in which is done, meaning each context may have different:

  • Depth of the excavated trench.
  • Material used for the covering layer.
  • Type of restoration to be implemented.



Enel Grids is seeking innovative solutions to enhance the installation of cables underground of Medium Voltage lines, reducing the effort of the entire process. The aim of the Challenge is to optimize, simplify, and speed up the cable installation process along the Medium Voltage (MV) line. This can be achieved by Solvers either through improving the current process or proposing a new process for the installation.

Currently, in Italy, when using the trenching system, it takes 20 days to lay 1km of medium-voltage cable. In the same context, when using the horizontal tunnelling process, it takes 6-10 days to lay 1km of cable. The complexity of the process is outlined above in the Scenario. Enel will evaluate solutions on the basis that they can achieve:

  • A faster step-by-step underground cable installation process – quicker than 20 days to lay 1km for tunnelling, or quicker than 10 days to lay 1km by horizontal tunnelling
  • Simpler steps compared to the current underground cable installation process.

These improvements can be achieved by reducing the impacts of the activities required of each step during the whole installation process:

  • Trenching
  • Laying the protection tube
  • Covering the tube
  • Closing the trench

For example, trenching is usually a construction method that involves digging a narrow trench in the ground for the installation, maintenance, or inspection of cables. Instead of the trench excavation described above, it should be for example considered that could be required the implementation of horizontal drilling that is trench-less, with higher or lower impacts compared to trenching, depending on the length of the cable. It is important to consider that coils used by Enel are 300m long, so they would need to dig each 300 meters to install the cable joint.


In this Challenge, Solvers are invited to improve the current process used by Enel or propose a new process. In order to show the effectiveness of your improvement of Enel’s current process or novel proposal, you must organize your solution to show its effectiveness across three use cases. You must propose a solution organized by use case, showing that your proposal can operate across a 1km cable, 3km cable, or 5km cable example.

Considering your solution should work across these use cases, it should also be separated from specific contexts. For instance, it should not depend on a very specific country context’s soil for covering the cable.

In general, the solution needs to satisfy the following must-have requirements:

  • Automatic or semi-automatic tool for cable installation activities, particularly with medium-voltage cables
  • Result in the least possible impact due to excavation and installation activities
    • Environmental – not causing unnecessary damage to the environment beyond the necessary cable installation
    • Social disruption to an area - in terms of time spent and sustained noise
    • Time of installation - less than 20 days per 1km if tunnelling, or less than 10 days when using the horizontal process
    • Trenchless technologies would be of interest
  • An innovative technology development phase at least with Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 5-6 
  • Avoid interference to other cables and wiring present
  • Compliance with national regulation in Italy
  • Please indicate in your submission if your solution can adhere to local regulation (e.g. Norm CEI 11-17 - art. 2.311 in Italy), but also the availability to extend the required certification to other country contexts where Enel works.

Your solution can also satisfy these nice-to-have requirements:

  • Enel has an existing process for mapping underground utilities before conducting work. However, if you are proposing a new tool, having the functionality for alerting, pre-identification, and mapping of underground utilities, this would be of interest to Enel Grids.
  • Process or improvement that increases the ease or simplicity of maintenance of the cable once installed.

This Challenge contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.​​​​​​

This is an electronic Request-for-Partners (eRFP) Challenge; the Solver will need to submit a written proposal to be evaluated by the Seeker with the goal of establishing a collaborative partnership. This Challenge type does not require Intellectual Property (IP) transfer. However, sometimes Seekers request that certain IP arrangements be made should a partnership be formed.

For questions about the Challenge and your proposal you can contact

Explain your proposal clearly in English, and attach documents (max 5 files, 35MB total size) if needed.

The proposals will be admitted until October 15, 2023 and the evaluation will start after this date. Late submissions will not be considered.


ABOUT THE SEEKER             

Enel is a multinational energy company and one of the world’s leading integrated electricity and gas operators. Enel works in more than 30 countries across five continents, generating energy with a total installed capacity of more than 89 GW, selling gas and distributing electricity across a network spanning approximately 2.2 million km. With almost 75 million end users around the world, Enel has the biggest customer base among our European competitors, and we are one of Europe’s leading energy companies by installed capacity.

The Enel Group is made up of approximately 66,000 people from around the world who are working together on the same goal. We are Open Power and our aim is to overcome some of the greatest challenges facing the world. This is to be achieved through a new approach which combines attention to sustainability with the best in innovation. Enel is dedicated to creating innovative solutions that meet society’s changing needs. Through its crowdsourcing platform, the company connects people and ideas from across the world, encouraging anyone to propose sustainable innovation projects and solutions that help develop local communities.

Enel is also committed to helping to achieve 4 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • 7 - Access to affordable and clean energy
  • 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • 11- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • 13 - The fight against climate change

Enel Grids is the global business line in charge of steering and coordinating the electricity transmission and distribution activities of Enel Group in 8 Countries (Europe and South America). For 20 years it's been committed to creating a knowledge ecosystem for developing network digitalization and now is the benchmark in terms of smart metering, thanks to the nearly 45 million smart meters installed on our electricity grids throughout the world, designing new automation systems for distribution networks in order to meet the growing demand for energy. By 2024 the aim to reach 81 million grid customers, 63% of whom will be digitalized, thanks to the world’s most advanced smart meter technology developed by Gridspertise, to reach the goal of more than 48 million installations on our networks around the world. At the same time, we're working on the implementation of an innovative, integrated platform operating model in order to comprehensively manage our networks, leveraging the opportunities offered by digitalization and emerging technologies.

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