Spanish infrastructure company Acciona announced on Thursday that it has become a lead investor of SAALG Geomechanics, a software and engineering startup that predicts real ground movement during the entire construction cycle with a large volume of data.

The investment was made under Acciona’s I'MNOVATION open innovation programme, Acciona said in a press statement.

The technology company raised €3.65 million through an operation partially funded by the European Commission's EIC Accelerator program, in a mixed model of capital investment and subsidies, with Acciona as lead investor and Credit Andorrà as financial supporter. SAALG Geomechanics aims to subsequently raise new capital to reach €5 million.

Acciona will allow SAALG Geomechanics to apply its Daarwin analysis software to the field of tunnelling with the company operating a dozen tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) in different projects around the globe.

Currently, more than 30 percent of tunnel construction projects worldwide experience geotechnical difficulties that lead to cost overruns or delays, with an average additional cost that can reach more than 55 percent of the original budget.

The new functionalities of the Daarwin software, based on machine learning algorithms, make it possible to predict a TBM's forward speed, detect geotechnical anomalies in advance, assist TBM pilots in optimising tunneling phases, and gather information for use in future projects. The new functionalities of this solution, which represents a significant increase in safety, efficiency and sustainability, are the first step towards the autonomous TBM.

Records achieved by Acciona’s TBMs include a 3.2km tunnel for Dubai Metro Route 2020, which was completed in a record 7 months with a maximum peak of 37 metres of advance in one single day. 

Since its creation in 2016, SAALG Geomechanics has been involved in more than 50 civil engineering, large building and mining projects worldwide: tunnels, large excavations and roads in more than 15 countries. Since 2020, its Daarwin software is being used, for example, as a strategic innovation tool for the UK’s High-Speed Two (HS2) project, the largest European high-speed rail infrastructure project.

(Writing by P Deol; Editing by Anoop Menon)