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Entries in innovation (14)


Do Lectures 2013: Challenge Projects

The Do Lectures 2013 starts on Thursday. Six challengers have set project briefs to catalyse ideas, action and the creation or adaptation of businesses to meet the needs of the future. The projects are:

Dan Burgess, Swarm

Hi-tech Hi-nature: Using technology to help kids reconnect with nature and the outdoors

Time spent outside in nature increases happiness, health and wellbeing. Fact. Yet British (and beyond) kids have never been more disconnected from the natural world than they are today. Time playing outside during the week has halved in one generation. Roaming distances from home have shrunk by 90% in 30 years. Fewer than 1 in 10 kids regularly play in wild spaces. Most kids can identify more brand logos than flora or fauna

The consequences are terrifying. Obesity rates in children are on the up as are mental health issues and depression. And what might happen if a generation becomes completely disconnected from nature? Who will protect the natural world if there is no connection or love for it in the first place?

The barriers are systemic. Society is becoming more risk averse, anti bacterial hand gels and hi visibility jackets rule and unstructured play and opportunities for roaming ever decreasing. Streets full of cars and fear of stranger danger keeps parents freaked out. Commercialisation of play and entertainment and rampant adoption of screen-based technologies is keeping kids inside.

Technology however is here to stay. Always-on web connectivity, access to apps, games, content  and multiple screen ownership in the home means that tech is going nowhere in kids lives. So how might we use technology to encourage kids to reconnect with nature, the outdoors and non-human life?

Our Do Start-up challenge is to prototype new products and services which flourish at the edges of technology and nature. Ideas that need symbiosis, balance and hybrid of the two to develop and grow.

 How could we subvert/hack existing tech behaviours patterns and systems to get kids (and adults too) running for the door? What form of new enterprise could we create? How would it sustain itself?

In about 7 weeks time a feature length documentary called Project Wild Thing will launch at Sheffield Doc fest, in cinemas, community screenings and on TV. The film will fuel the conversation and increase awareness around this systemic issue. 


Tom Farrand, Swarm

Citizen Social Science: Tapping into the power of citizens to solve social problems

The UK has a population of just over 63 million people. Many of our systems are creaking under the weight of increasing demand, economic uncertainty and massive budget cuts. Think about health care, environmental conservation, local community issues, education, road congestion, crime prevention as startpoints. There just isn’t enough human resource or capacity to cope.

We’ve been piloting a citizen-science based approach that gets the public ‘swarming’ around social problems using web and mobile technology. The first pilot -  Cell Slider - has got ordinary folk accurately classifying over 1 million pieces of data on the web with virtually no marketing - saving pathologist time, money and helping people to fight cancer in a new way.

Our Do Start-Up challenge is about tipping mindless consumption into participation where folk become solvers of real-life problems. So, what other systemic social issues could we tackle collaboratively using a citizen-science ‘swarming’ approach?  Where’s the biggest potential? What idea(s) can we rapidly prototype?  How do we make the complex simple? What’s the business model that will encourage sustainable growth and participation?


Andy Middleton, TYF

Slipstream Wales

Wild geese save two thirds of their energy by flying in formation towards the same place. Business and government  could do the same to take innovation for sustainability to the scale that our communities children and nature need.

We're off the ground already, with half a dozen businesses on board. How do we blast through the sound barrier? What's are the patterns and connections we need to build? How do create opportunity for others as things change?

How do we take use Do Lectures talent and magic to pivot at country scale and use Wales as a prototype lab for the world? How do we make sure that whatever happens, we can say we did everything we could?


James Lynch, Fforest

Small town futures. 

There are three Cardigan crops: food, tourists, youth. Local kids grow up with the land, the sea and community. Riches. They love their place, but many leave to find a future, come back when they retire.  energy spent.

How can we combine food production, tourism services and technology to create a year round business that keeps the energy here?  A business that forms a new (and a bit old) template for rural communities in the beautiful places throughout the uk.


Mark Shayler, TicketyBoo

Developing a circular economy: reinventing manufacturing in Britain.

If we don’t have stuff we can’t make things. We have a linear economy. We take, make, use, and dispose. Only 19% of materials used in the UK are circular. Only 1% of materials used are still in use 6 months later. China owns the rights to 97% of the world’s rare earths. Key manufacturing skills are only 5 years from being lost from the UK. There will be 2 billion more middle class in the East by 2030. Why would the East sell the West anything when they have a big enough market at home?

Enough! How do we begin to manufacture in Britain again? What do we make? Who for? How?  What does a circular economy business model look like? How does it make money? How does it make brilliant products that people want?

We are going to start a circular economy business. We will design the product, source the product, pack the product, brand the product, identify the market, develop the brand (one that means something – no brand-bollocks here), and build the business plan. Any sector. Any product. Any place


Carlo Navato, Haxstead Estates

Housing a growing population in a sustainable way

There is a predicted shortfall of up to 1,100,000 homes in England by 2016;

the number of house constructions started in England in the year to March 2012 was 104,970 compared with the projected formation of 223,000 households a year. 7.4 million homes in England fail to meet the Government's Decent Homes Standard. In 2008/09, 654,000 households in England were overcrowded. The average age of a first-time buyer (unaided by money from relatives) has risen to 37. Every £1 invested in infrastructure generates £2.84 in total economic activity.

Given the deepening housing crisis across the UK, how do we transform housing delivery to ensure, in a way that is affordable to both society and to the environment,  that every household has a decent home?


Tomorrow's Natural Business

Co-running Tomorrow's Natural Business at ICAEW in London, with Tomorrow's Company and Atos. Currently on is Michael Bremans, Chairman of Ecover International - currently used by around 1.2m households in the UK.

'80 - founded

'92 - first ecological factory

'93 Roll of Honour UNEP

All of these were part of the evolution of consciousness of toxicity of products on our environment, that probably started with the publishing of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in the '60s

Our work on sustainability started with our products, and we relied on our own staff. We learned the hard way about who needs to do the measurement - half of our lab staff are now biologists, and we've developed our own model as we couldn't find what we needed in the market. The Ecover Diamond model looks at:

1. Sourcing, 2. Usage, 3. Absorption 

Usage is important but 7 out of the 13 elements are part of the Absorption phase, not the other two. One key element is CDV - critical dilution volume - the theoretical minimum level to neutralise the effect of the amount of product that you've just used. A standard 60g of Ecover washing powder needs 2500 litres of water to neutralise; the standard for the European eco label it's 4500, and the standard is 10-15000 litres. 50,000 litres of water needed to neutralise one dose of shampoo, as the minimum European standard.

Fermentation using naturally occurring bacteria to create surfectants is the process we use to get the products we need. Ecover are using bottles made out of 'Plantastic' sugarcane derived PET. 

Ecover give triple travel benefits to people who travel by bike, double to those who car share. They've used social media a lot to get a voice out to the market that would have been too expensive within traditional comms channels.

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future" JFK





Creative challenge

The team at McKinsey's MIX lab are coming up with some useful challenges, including this one - work your way through practical solutions to the following situations:

  • You can only interact with your customers online
  • You can only serve one type of consumer
  • The price of your product is cut in half
  • Your largest channel disappears overnight
  • You have to charge a 5x price premium for your product
  • You have to offer your value proposition with a partner company

And then, try the same with much more real, sustainability challenges:

  • You have to reduce carbon emissions by 10% a year
  • None of your by-product can end up in landfill
  • Your business model must build community
  • Biodiversity benefits from your existence
  • Transparency and governance increase by an order of magnitude
  • Your primary resource cost increases threefold overnight

Have fun working it out for yourself...



Leaving the labels?

Across the Atlantic from where I'm sitting in St Davids, designer and catalyst Bruce Mau is asking the question "how do we put university quality education into the hands of the 99% of 18 year olds who don't get to go, but need the insight it can deliver?"

Seth Godin also asks "What would happen if people spent it building up a work history instead [of focusing on a getting a over-hyped university degree]? On becoming smarter, more flexible, more self-sufficient and yes, able to take more risk because they owe less money...

There's no doubt that we need smarter and more motivated people in our organizations. I'm not sure we need them to be better labeled or more accredited.

In the UK, the Seven Fools are asking employers for their wish list of the characteristics that they'd want new employees to have if their businesses were serious about innovation and sustainability. So far, no-one has said "they need more knowledge". Capability, results, evidence and portfolios are what's needed, so let's focus on creating an education system that can deliver both.


The other trifecta

Seth Godin blogged this today, and got it partially right:

The trifecta of competition:

Faster than the other guy. Faster to the market, faster to respond, faster to get the user up to speed.

Better than the other guy. Better productivity, better story, better impact.

and More. More for your money. More choices. More care. More guts.

You have more competition than you did yesterday. I expect that trend will continue.

There's an alternative

Fast enough to count. Faster to reduce carbon, faster waste to zero, faster to eliminate crap products & services.

and More. More positive impact. More insight. More thought. More of 'let's act as though the risk to our species was real'

You have more collaboration than you did yesterday. I expect the trend will continue.