Designing improved product-service combinations

It will be a multidisciplinary challenge to create well-integrated solar product-service systems that can supply electricity, heat and solar fuels. Namely, the introduction of newly designed solar energy products and systems requires profound business model innovations in a wide range of industry sectors, including infrastructures, the built environment, the transport sector and industry. In this context, adding services to products ("servitization") seems to be an attractive strategy for actors involved in the energy sector. Integration of products and services are associated with both design processes, marketing, strategic and financial benefits. Hence, solar energy innovations within a new socio-technical system are increasingly taking place in networks or ecosystems of producers, users, complementors and several other institutions that create social systems consisting of multiple actors, which alignment is hindered by institutional arrangements like industry habits, rules and legislation, cultural settings and so on.

Multidisciplinary aspects will be covered by design-driven approaches, among which, co-creation, user studies, product impact analyses, stakeholder analyses, financial analyses, environmental assessments, prototyping and technical tests, as well as in some cases the development of new manufacturing processes. Carefully matching the innovative features of “servitized” renewable energy technologies with the needs and wishes of the (end)user through design will mean that the energy transition will not only provide a technology push but also a market pull opportunity. The design has an extensive track record of turning innovative technologies into “objects of desire”. Analogous to this, the design-driven approach over the full value chain can make solar-based technology-service combinations more attractive and valuable. This and accompanying case studies will serve the knowledge and innovation needs of enterprises, designers, ITC developers, architects, city planners, other parties in the building and construction sector as well as utilities, installers, and the automotive industry.

Integration of solar technologies with architecture and the automotive sector will result in new solar-powered products in the following – non-exclusive – categories: (1) coloured and decorated PV(-T) modules for building-integrated PV applications, (2) curved, easy to manufacture PV-battery units for integration in and charging of electric vehicles, (3) forecasting and pricing services for energy management products (both electricity and heat) for homes or industry, (4) seasonal solar storage concepts, (5) service and business models for large scale role out of PV systems in grids, and so on.

For more information, please contact Angèle Reinders or Bart Nieuwenhuis.