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A number of years ago when I started my PhD I read an article first published in 2002 by Jonathan Chapman called System failure: Why governments must learn to think differently. What Chapman’s article reminded me was that the failure of government policies can have roots in incorrect assumptions, poor processes of policy development and that the prevalence of mindsets that impede innovation. It also highlighted that systems thinking offers an opportunity to explore policy in a new light.
My PhD explored ecodesign interventions and questioned why after lots of government interventions there was apparently little ecodesign happening in industry. This PhD was strongly informed by the innovation systems literature and I presented evidence systems failure in relation to ecodesign in SMEs. I unpicked the logic behind existing government interventions and then developed a framework through which government can design interventions based on a systems perspective.Tweet Read More
Our understanding of how and why innovation happens has changed over the last few decades. We no longer see innovation as the classic linear process of financial and knowledge inputs being translated into technical outputs and financial outcomes. Reality is much more complex.
The linear models used to explain how and why innovation happens are redundant and we now understand that innovation happens within a non-linear system of interactions. These interactions occur between people, organisations, societies, policies, networks, ideologies, cultures and time. There are many different ways to view the innovation system (e.g. multi-level perspective, technical innovation system, socio-technical transitions etc.) but I think it is important to remember that innovation is a social activity and society is profoundly non-linear.
The now widely accepted (but not widely understood) systems view of innovation grew out of academic research. These academic insights now have significant implications for how policies for innovation are framed and designed. It’s not possible to continue creating policies based on a flawed understanding of what innovation is and how it happens.
What does this mean for the current debates on design policy?Tweet Read More
Two and a half years ago I completed a research project for my MSc degree. I was interested in the topic of small businesses and the environment. In the UK SMEs make up over 99% of all businesses and contribute up to 70% of the country’s industrial pollution. Yet, it is commonly acknowledged that SMEs and in particular small or micro-sized businesses lag behind larger businesses in improving their environmental performance. With this in mind I focused my attention on an area which I had some personal experience with, the foodservice sector.
Food service can be defined as the provision of food and drink outside of the home. The foodservice sector can be considered to be made up of two sub-sectors: the ‘cost sector’, where meal provision tends to be out of necessity e.g. hospitals, and the ‘profit sector,’ where the majority of outlets work within the wider hospitality industry e.g. restaurants and cafes. In 2012 the food service market in the UK was estimated to be worth £42 billion, the UK’s fourth largest consumer market.Tweet Read More
The New Year has brought relief from the high water levels witnessed in the river Taff over the Christmas period, only to reveal a reminder of a not so festive kind of tree decoration. The litter which is festooned on the vegetation along the riverbank illustrates the usually hidden cargo making up the recent ‘storm water soup’. The quantity of flexible plastic packaging which offers itself to the branches, presumably only representing a fraction of the litter making its way downstream. Beyond the visual impact on the local environment, this may not seem like such a problem, until we consider the bigger picture of global degradation of the aquatic environment, with the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ bearing testimony to the scale of this accumulative environmental problem. http://www.tedxgreatpacificgarbagepatch.com/
What should/can be done? Beyond the fantastic activities of people such as the Cardiff Rivers Group who undertake regular clear-up events http://cardiffriversgroup.blogspot.co.uk/ there are some seemingly obvious approaches to providing remedial interventions:
Is innovation policy making fit-for-purpose in a post-industrial and state-centric Wales?
Does the traditional ‘triple-helix’ model of government/academia/business interaction need disruption to include the social sectors?
Does a reliance on traditional innovation metrics, such as patents, lead to a myopia that undervalues what is happening on the ground? Can big-data methods be harnessed to improve this?
How can a peripheral region define leadership in any area of smart specialization within the broader EU context? Why should smart specialization only be in specific technology areas?
Sometimes, for me, the sign of a good event is when I come away with more questions than answers. NESTA brought an innovation roadshow to Cardiff to share their plans for the future, current work in Wales and to bring a panel of Welsh innovators that have already received support from NESTA. The event was well attended by a diverse group of public, private, academic, arts and social sector organisations. With that many people together in the one room it was clear the event would only have a very broad overview of the issues but it helped raise some questions for me, like those above.
As a Product design student I developed a strong interest in sustainable design and joining the Ecodesign Centre team was the opportunity to expand on my area of interest beyond ‘making things out of cardboard’ and understand what sustainability means in a professional world. I met with Frank the morning of my arrival to discuss areas of interest around design for the circular economy. We quickly decided that it would be good to investigate the life cycle of the disposable ball point pen, and the surrounding sustainable issues and possible opportunities to improve them, hopefully raise some interesting points along the way. My preconceived ideas on the investigation were that the ballpoint pens (the Biro) are clearly an unsustainable product and my goals were to find out how unsustainable, and what could be done to make it sustainable. During my time here however it became clear that in the world of sustainable design there is no simple black and white, and solutions are not straightforward. To gain a real understanding I had to analyse the life cycle in more detail. Luckily for me there is a wealth of knowledge on BIC® the company that revolutionised the biro and in particular their Cristal ballpoint pen (it’s got its own Wikipedia page). It made for some interesting reading as according to Wikipedia, up to 2004, 100 billion Cristal ball point pens had been manufactured, and as BIC® themselves admit their ’products are generally not designed to be recycled’, as the singular product is not significant enough in weight and volume to be considered recyclable (Societe BIC, 2005). It begs the question ‘where are they all now?’ To put that into context, if you were able to collect and stand each pen end on end, there would be enough to reach the moon and back 20 times and would weigh approximately 590,000 tonnes.
I finally handed in my PhD last week and so this week I have been reflecting on my original motivation for starting in the first place. When I started I was mostly interested in understanding why small companies struggled to do ecodesign. I also wanted to understand why this situation hadn’t seemed to change after many years of government interventions to encourage/enable/facilitate/promote/etc. ecodesign in different countries around the world.
I chose to explore this issue by investigating the ‘structural’ issues of how ecodesign happens in companies and the interaction between ecodesign practice and the wider ‘innovation system’. This research provided some interesting insights into how governments develop interventions and I made some suggestions how these interventions could be changed in the future (for better or worse). I will share some of these findings after my viva next year!!
Around 30 delegates representing the European Commission, United Nations and a host of other international organisations and governments attended the successful launch of the European Network of Ecodesign Centres (ENEC) at Mechelen on the 28th of November.
The event included a keynote from Michael Bennett (Policy Officer-Ecodesign, DG Enterprise and Industry, European Commission) on the critical role ENEC can play in supporting the Commission meet the challenges of a more resource efficient Europe. On behalf of the Commission Michael congratulated the founding members for taking the initiative in launching this first of its kind interregional collaborative network, inviting ENEC to work closely with them in ensuring Europe is at the forefront of stimulating demand for ecodesign.Tweet Read More
‘Good design is sustainable design’ announced the UK Design Council’s strategic plan in 2008.
But Seymourpowell’s Head of Sustainability, Chris Sherwin says we must go one step further: not only making sustainability part of good design, but of all design. In his recent article ‘Embedding sustainability in design’ Sherwin explores how to get sustainability into each and every design project.
One example of a sustainable design is Bimbo packaging, primarily designed for the user benefit of eliminating the ineffective packaging tie, which also has environmental benefits. Another is Replenish, the household cleaning refill that saves you money and reduces the inconvenience of running out.
If sustainability in all design is the goal, then the client-designer relationship will be crucial to delivering this. Here are three ways to make sustainability a default in design:
• Design briefs
• In design processes
• Through design persuasion or stealth
Click here to read the full article: ‘Embedding sustainability in design’
To read a report on sustainability and the design brief, go to: http://www.scribd.com/doc/110290566/Sustainability-in-briefTweet Read More
European based Ecodesign Centres lead the way in making ecodesign happen through launching a first of its kind interregional collaborative network.
Given the challenges of a more sustainable Europe five prominent Ecodesign Centres and their respective regional governmentshave joined forces to create a collaborative platform to generate, disseminate and apply ecodesign and life-cycle thinking knowledge. This first of its kind agreement has been termed the European Network of Ecodesign Centres with the network launch, in partnership with the European Commission, at Ovam in Mechelen (near Brussels) on the 28th of November.
The respective founding centres are Ecodesign Centre (Wales), in partnership with the Welsh Government, Basque Ecodesign Center part of Ihobe (Basque Country), Ovam Ecodesign (Flanders), Effizienz-Agentur (North Rhine-Westphalia) and Pole Eco-conception (Rhone-Alpes).Tweet Read More
Anyone who has cross-threaded a bolt whilst attempting to forcibly pair Imperial and Metric threads, would find themselves, rather like a child attempting to drive a square peg through the proverbial round hole frustrated as to why such intrinsically similar things are so incompatible?
Within the lighting industry there has been a long-standing president for a less multifarious relationship between key components. The interchangeable lamp (bulb) to light fitting (luminaire) relationship was established thanks in some way to common sense standardisation; with the Edison screw in Europe and Bayonet fitting in the UK. The obvious requirement to replace the lamp without having to scrap the entire light fitting has its basis in the relatively ‘short-lived’ existence of the ‘light source’; candles, wicks and more recently the incandescent bulb have all played their part in defining the nature of this relationship.
The inevitable emergence of LEDs as the ‘light source of choice’, due to their energy efficiency has challenged this relationship. Given the service life promises of 50,000 hours for LEDs, the need for a standardised approach to interconnectivity would appear to have been sidestepped. The proliferation of luminaire embedded LEDs (conjoined) bears testament to this, with the impact on premature product obsolescence largely unquantified.
An approach to matching the environmental and economic attributes of sustainability, described as the ‘circular economy’, sounds a simple enough shape to manage. We put things (materials, products) into either technological or biological cycles or ‘loops’ and they flow around until we decide to pluck them out and reuse them. The proviso being we avoid mixing them up (co-mingle) and don’t put anything in which is nasty.
Of course the reality is these ‘loops’ are more akin to those of a rollercoaster carrying buckets of water, with centrifugal and centripetal forces doing their best to promote spillage. The key difference though is we carefully design the rollercoaster to give the impression of an insecure ‘open loop ‘experience, while providing a safe return journey; whilst with products we often seem to place little thought to the design of the journey. Perhaps this is because the lifecycle loops for most products are so numerous and include loops within loops; for example the ‘manufacturing loop’ of a plastic part may require several chemical/thermal/mechanical interventions for each of its material ingredients. The notion of a ‘fractal economy’ might be more appropriate?
We have all experienced the annoyance of failing products. We are pretty much guaranteed that everything we own will break at some point in the future. Some large things we will keep repairing for as long as possible (houses, cars etc.) mainly due to the expense of buying new ones. However, a lot of products that break on us are quickly thrown away. Whether this is due to lack of time, knowledge or skills to repair them or just because it’s easier or cheaper to replace it with a new product. But what if we started to repair?Tweet Read More