onsdag 2 oktober 2013

Green lifestyles for reduced energy consumption

Monday at midnight was the deadline for handling in research grant applications to The Swedish Energy Agency's call for research on "Energy, IT and Design" (EID). There has been a lot of activities around this call in my group (the sustainability team at CSC/Media Technology and Interaction Design), at the KTH Center for Sustainable Communications (CESC) and in the KTH Green Leap network. We might altogether have handed in upwards to ten or a dozen applications... (I don't know yet).

I handed in my application with 20 minutes to spare and had at that time (11.40 p.m.) spent almost 20 hours working with the application during the very last two days before the deadline (i.e. I went to KTH to work also on Sunday). Let's just say I wasn't alone among my acquaintances in working late Monday night - five persons ate dinner together at KTH and others were hammering away at their applications at home. I do believe it's the first time I sort of feel that I'm part of a community that was formed around a call for research grant application (thank you Josefin and thank you Facebook).

To make matters worse, I had a guest lecture in my course the very next morning at 8 a.m. and only got 5 hours of sleep or less before I met up with my invited guest (it was great lecture though so it was totally worth it). One thing that does differ this application from most other is that CESC actually have put aside money so that we will get some remuneration for the time spent writing CESC applications. As a researcher, I'm not really spoiled with that and it is much appreciated. I can use that money for example to travel to a conference or two without having to apply for and worry about funding for such trips.

The application itself was handed in by me, so I'm the "principal investigator" (PI) for the project, but it was indeed written with input from, and together with my colleagues Cecilia Katzeff (Interactive Institute and KTH/CESC) and Elina Eriksson (KTH/MID, KTH/CESC and KTH/Green Leap). Cecilia has the impressive title Research Director for Energy Design at the Interactive Institute and that's pretty cool and useful for this call and this application in particular (Energi, IT and Design). Cecilia also brings two more junior colleagues with her into the project, but they haven't been involved in planning the project or writing the actual application. The application itself is written in Swedish but here is our English-language maximum 1000 characters summary - with all of15 words to spare (we could have added one or two sentences):

Green lifestyles for reduced energy consumption

Most people today agree that it is necessary to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. However, moving from insight to action has proven to be difficult for individuals as well as companies and governments. In this project we aim to study people who have chosen to proactively change their lifestyles in order to reduce their energy consumption and increase the sustainability of their daily lives.

Based on our results, we aim to develop concepts of products and services that can reach a much larger market of "ordinary" people, thereby giving them the opportunity to change their energy habits and use energy more efficiently. The goal is to, in these concepts, "embody" a potential for changing behaviors and reducing energy consumption. With IKEA as a partner, one of the goals of the project is to create products and services that can reduce energy consumption both in Sweden and globally.

The summary was written late Monday night. One thing that is elaborated in the application but that is missing in the summary is a left-out step that links the first and the second paragraph together. We also plan to develop concepts for products and services that support the "innovators/lead users" in their quest to change their energy habits and decrease their energy consumption and then to "leverage" these findings onto a larger audience.

We have Transition Town Sweden onboard as a project partner (see further the Transition Network Wiki), but one thing that makes our application stand out is that IKEA is one of our project partners. In IKEA's Letter of Intent, it says:

"The goal is to by 2020 increase [IKEA] sales of products that enable customers to live a more sustainable life at home by 400%. The good news is that with 690 million visitors to IKEA Group stores worldwide, even small changes will soon add up to a big difference".

In the application I also managed to refer to the incredibly well-timed The Guardian September 30 breaking news that IKEA "plans to offer solar panel packages at all of its 17 British stores within the next 10 months". Talk about perfect timing.

We have chosen November 1 as the starting date of our project (first possible date according to the call). I don't know when we will know if our applications have been granted or rejected, but the starting date would imply that we will know already within a month (which seems hard to believe - that would be lightning fast by research world standards). We have thus planned to do a pilot study already this year, but we would be challenged to manage that if we get an answer on November 15 - to say nothing about December 1. Still, after a very intensive period of planning and writing, there is nothing much to do but to lean back and wait. And scramble to do all the work that was displaced and put aside due to the fact that massive priority has been given to writing this application the last week.

Contact person for students who are interested in writing a thesis in this area/project:
- Daniel Pargman, pargman(a)kth.se


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