I'm part of a group (led by University of Strathclyde) that handed in a EU application two weeks ago. This is a "Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks" application and I took part of another such application two years ago. If granted, the project will run for four years and the application basically applies for money to hire 14 ph.d. students for three years at five universities and three research institutes/research-oriented organisations in five different countries (UK, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Greece). There are also an additional 11 partner organisations in for the most part the same five countries. Now as well as in the previous application the KTH "node" consists of Cecilia Katzeff and me, but this time around I hardly did any work at all with the application itself. This short description of the application is for the most part taken from the application itself:
The application is called "Smart home technology for sustainable practices" and the main scientific goal is to develop an inter-disciplinary design methodology for maximizing return on smart metering investments and energy efficiency programmes through better understanding of energy consumption in relation to users’ needs. Also, the application stressed that people should not be dominated by available or future technology, but technology should instead be designed to fit into everyday practices at home, in transports and at the work place. Objectives pursuant to this goal are:
- Investigating technology for energy sensing and analytics.
- Investigating the relationship between smart technologies and energy services through the lens of user practices.
- Investigating how social practices are challenged by emerging smart technology.
The applicants together possess multi-disciplinary (engineering, human-computer interaction, and social science) and multi-sector expertise to address energy and climate change problems by shaping technology to our daily life, ensuring the emergence of long-lasting sustainable practices. In doing so, the project will challenge a traditional approach of fitting people to technology, instead acknowledging that socio-technical solutions require approaches that recognise complex interrelations between people, designs, artefacts, and practices.
The main reasons for the slow uptake of smart home technologies (including smart metering) are assumptions made about the user and attempts at designing technology that will change user behaviour. An emphasis on persuasion makes the technology into an instrument and isolates it from everyday life. Contrarily, social practice theory argues that energy is consumed as an often unavoidable part of everyday practices, placing practices at the centre of analysis and asks how they evolve and change over time, and what the implications for energy demand are.
The five participating universities are:
- University of Strathclyde (UK)
- University of East Anglia (UK)
- Aalborg University (DK)
- KTH Royal Institute of Technology (SWE)
- University of Siegen (DE)
The application is again quite voluminous (as these things tend to be), 35 pages of compact text (sometimes with a small font) and together with appendixes breaking the 100-page barrier. We will know if the application is granted sometime before the summer.