The Design Innovation Group

The Design Innovation Group (DIG) is a multi-disciplinary research group based in the Department of Design and Innovation at the Open University. It was founded in 1979 in order to examine the role of design in competitiveness and to identify factors relating to the success and failure of design and new product development in manufacturing industry. Group members from the OU and the University of Manchester have conducted major international studies of the practice and management of product design and innovation in firms from a variety of industries, ranging from bicycles and plastic products to railways, electronics and computing. Recently, the focus of the OU members of the DIG has been on eco-design and sustainable innovation.

Latest News

Getting warmer: field trial of domestic heat pumps

Robin Roy, Sally Caird and Stephen Potter of the Design Innovation Group worked with the Energy Saving Trust on the largest field trial of domestic heat pumps so far conducted in the UK. The OU team carried out studies of the experience, behaviour and satisfaction of over 90 heat pump users to complement the technical monitoring of heat pump performance. The main findings of the first year of the field trial were published in September 2010 and created some controversy. The OU team also produced a confidential detailed report for the project sponsors which included the Department of Energy and Climate Change, The Scottish Government, seven energy suppliers and five heat pump manufacturers.

Read the public report

 

SusTEACH funding success

Professor Andy Lane and Dr Sally Caird have won £125,000 funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) under the Greening ICT Programme for the SusTEACH project to develop Sustainable Tools for the Environmental Appraisal of the Carbon Impacts of Higher Education Teaching Models using ICTs.

Starting in March 2011 for 18 months, SusTEACH will examine the transformative impact of ICTs on HE teaching models and assess their environmental and life-time impacts.

SusTEACH aims to develop an innovative environmental impact appraisal toolkit that can be used at early development stages to help reduce impacts when new modules and programmes are being designed and approved, and contribute towards achieving.

 

Aims and Objectives of the DIG
Aims

To improve understanding of successful and/or environmentally sustainable design and innovation, both in the UK and overseas;
To apply this understanding to the development of educational material on the management and best practice of design and innovation.

Objectives

1 To investigate the process, practice and management of product design and technical innovation in selected industry sectors;
2 To develop the principles and practices of sustainable design at both product and systems levels;
3 To develop models and case studies of successful and/or sustainable product design and innovation for educational and research processes;
4 To apply the findings of the research in the development of learning materials on effective and/or environmentally sustainable design practice and management, for use in undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education courses.

Research programmes


Below are brief outlines of some of the research projects carried out over the past 15 years by members of the Design Innovation Group, within the Group’s four main research programmes:

The Design for the Environment Programme
The Design and Innovation Management Programme
The Design Studies Programme.
The Transport and Environment Programme

The Design for the Environment Programme


This programme is concerned with the development, principles and practice of eco-design and sustainable technology at both product and systems levels.

Achieving the carbon dioxide saving potential of domestic heat pumps in the UK: an evaluation of technical performance and user behaviour
A six month scoping project from March 2007 with the Energy Saving Trust, funded via a £50k grant from the Higher Education Innovation Fund's 'Carbon Connections' programme administered by the University of East Anglia. The study has conducted preliminary technical and user evaluations of solar water heating, heat pumps and biomass stoves and boilers and conducted major online surveys of adopters, non-adopters and considerers of these technologies.
For details see:

Caird S., and Roy, R., (2010) Adoption and use of household microgeneration heat, Low Carbon Economy, vol 1 No. 2. pp 61-70

Roy, R. (2009) Achieving the carbon dioxide saving potential of domestic heat pumps in the UK: an evaluation of technical performance and user behaviour, Final Report to Carbon Connections Ltd., University of East Anglia, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 28 August. pdf

Roy, R., Caird S., and Abelman, J. (2008) YIMBY generation. Yes in my back yard! UK householders pioneering microgeneration heat, The Energy Saving Trust, London, June.

A report (YIMBY Generation) examining consumer adoption and non-adoption of microgeneration heat technologies (solar thermal, heat pumps, biomass heating) released June 2008 by the Open University's Design Innovation Group/Sustainable Technologies Group and the Energy Saving Trust, and funded by the University of East Anglia’s Carbon Connections Fund, reveals the financial, regulatory and logistical solutions that will encourage a greater uptake of microgeneration heat technologies in homes across the UK.

Click here to download the report

Renewable Energy and the Public

Caird S., and Roy, R., (2008) Yes in my back yard - UK householders pioneering microgeneration heat, in Divine - Wright, P. (ed.) Renewable Energy and the Public, London: Earthscan, pp 203-219

Sally Caird and Robin Roy have published a chapter summarising the findings of the People-centred Ecodesign and Consumer Adoption of Microgeneration Heat projects in Renewable Energy and the Public edited by Patrick Devine-Wright (Earthscan, 2010).


Roy, R. and Caird, S. (2008) Who adopts micro-heating technologies? Green Building, Autumn, pp. 44-47

Cook, Y. (2008) Saving the planet with grey pride, The Independent, 4 March, pp.48-49. (Feature article from an interview with Robin Roy and Sally Caird on consumer adoption of renewables.)

People-Centred Eco-Design: Consumer adoption of low and zero carbon
products and systems

This project begun in 2003 involves surveys of domestic consumers, with collaboration from Milton Keynes Energy Agency and the National Energy Foundation, on factors influencing adoption and effective use of low and zero carbon (LZC) products and systems, ranging from home insulation to solar water heating and micro-CHP systems. In addition, we are gathering the more expert opinions of those working in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy, particularly on the technical and design improvements that could be made to LZC products and systems. The results of this research would provide valuable insights into how to design energy-efficient products and systems that would be more user-friendly and energy-saving; and to help governments develop more effective demand-led policies for household carbon reduction to meet its overall target of up to a 20% reduction in emissions by 2010 and 60% by 2050.
The project involved an on-line survey, linked to the 2006 BBC/OU Climate Change TV season of why consumers have adopted, or seriously considered but rejected, a range of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems.

Two reports on UK Consumers, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

The Open University Design Innovation Group (part of the OU Sustainable Technologies Group) announces two new research reports from its ‘People-centred ecodesign’ project, free to download.

Consumer adoption and use of household energy efficiency products  by Sally Caird & Robin Roy with Stephen Potter & Horace Herring, Report DIG-09, December 2007.

[Download Full Energy Efficiency Report 47 pages 1.6MB]

[Download Energy Efficiency Executive Summary 14 pages 670kB]

Provides an Executive summary and detailed results of major questionnaire and interview surveys on why UK consumers decide to adopt or reject household energy efficiency measures, such as loft insulation, low energy lamps and condensing boilers. The report also covers the experiences of people who installed these measures and consumers’ ideas for improving them.

Consumer adoption and use of household renewable energy technologies by Sally Caird & Robin Roy with Stephen Potter & Horace Herring, Report DIG-10, Dec. 2007.

[Download Full Renewables Report 56 pages 2.1MB]

[Download Renewables Executive Summary 18 pages 1.2MB]

Provides an Executive summary and detailed results of major questionnaire and interview surveys on why UK consumers decide to adopt or reject household renewables – solar thermal water heating, solar photovoltaics, micro-wind turbines and wood-burning stoves. The report also covers the experiences of people who installed these renewables and consumers’ideas for improving them.

This research was conducted in collaboration with Milton Keynes Energy Agency http://www.mkea.org.uk/
and the National Energy Foundation http://www.nef.org.uk/

In August 2006 the DIG submitted invited written evidence to the Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee enquiry on Climate change: the citizens’ agenda.
See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmenvfru/88/88ii.pdf

 

For the aims and findings of the project to date see:
Roy, R. and Caird, S. (2006) ‘Designing low & zero carbon products and systems – adoption, effective use and innovation’, In Proceedings Sustainable Innovation 06 international conference, Chicago 23-24 October, Centre for Sustainable Design, University of the Creative Arts, Farnham, UK, pp. 216-224.

Roy, R, Potter, S and Caird, S. (2007) People Centred Eco-design: Consumer adoption and use of low and zero carbon products and systems, in Murphy, J. (ed.) Governing technology for sustainability, London: Earthscan, pp. 41-62 ISBN 978-1-84407-345-0.

Herring, H., Roy, R and Caird, S (2007) Grey greens go solar? – consumer adoption and use of renewables, Renew 167, May/June pp. 20-22. (Pdf)

Caird, S., Herring, H. and Roy, R. (2007) Can consumers save energy? Results from surveys of consumer adoption and use of low and zero carbon technologies, In Proceedings European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Summer Study 2007, ‘Saving energy – just do it!’ (La Colle sur Loup, Côte d’Azur, France, 4-5 June) Volume 4, Stockholm, Sweden, pp. 1885-95.

Caird, S. and Roy, R. (2007) Views of energy efficiency professionals. Adoption of Low and Zero Carbon products and systems:How may eco-designs be improved to be more people-centered? NHER E-info Newsletter, May

Roy, R and Caird, S. (2007) Designing low and zero carbon products and systems: improvements based on consumers’ experience of adoption and use, International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED07), ‘Design for society: Knowledge, innovation and sustainability’, Paris, 28-30 August, (Executive summary in Conference Proceedings pp. 863-864 + full paper on CD-ROM).

Roy, R. and Caird, S. (2008) Why do householders adopt or reject energy efficiency and renewables? Energy Action, No. 104, March, pp. 16-17

Caird, S., Roy, R. and Herring, H (2008) Improving the energy performance of UK households. Results from surveys of consumer adoption and use of low and zero carbon technologies, Energy Efficiency, Vol. No. 2 May, pp. 149-166.(Pdf)

Roy, R. and Caird, S. (2008) Design Improvements from users’ experiences of low and zero carbon technologies, Paper for special issue on Sustainability of International Journal of Performability Engineering, Vol. 4 No. 4, October, pp. 357-370.

Caird, S. and Roy, R. (2008) User-Centred Improvements to Energy Efficiency Products and Renewable Energy Systems: Research on Household Adoption and Use, Special issue on user-centred innovation, International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 12, No. 3 (September), pp.327-355. (Pdf)

Ecological footprints of UK households
This project involved a study, using the Ecological Footprint technique, of the environmental impacts of nearly 1000 British households, one of whose members had taken the Open University course, T172 Working with our Environment: Technology for a Sustainable Future.

Key results

The average Ecological Footprint per OU household is 1.3 hectares per person. OU households with 2.1 adults and 0.8 children under 16 years are similar to average UK households.
OU households without children had higher footprints per person than those with children, especially for Transport and Energy.
There was an increase in the footprint per person as households got smaller, and especially as household size fell below three people.
A globally equitable (‘earthshare’) household footprint is 0.4 – 0.5 hectares per person.
On this measure, some 10% of the OU households could be regarded as sustainable.

 

 

For more information see:

Roy, R. and Caird, S. (2001) Household ecological footprints – moving towards sustainability, Town and Country Planning, Vol. 70, No. 10, October, pp. 277-279.

Roy, R. and Caird, S. (2001) Environmental actions to reduce household ecological footprints, International Journal of Environmental Education and Information, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 315-332. (Pdf)

Caird S. and Roy, R. (2006) Household ecological footprints - demographics and sustainability, Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, Vol. 8 No. 4, December, pp. 1-23.

Factor 10 Visions: Exploring Ways to Reach Factor 10

This project began in 1999 with funding provided by the Open University. It is increasingly recognised that in the industrialised North, anything between Factor 4 (75%) and Factor 10 (90%) reductions in energy and resource consumption and CO2 emissions may be needed to avoid major global environmental problems, such as climate change, while allowing the population of developing countries to reach decent living standards.
This study is investigating the potential for up to 90% reductions in energy and resource consumption in three sectors – housing, personal transport and higher education. Housing and transport are responsible for about half the energy demands and CO2 emissions from UK households, while education is a growing service sector with the potential for significant dematerialization through distance learning and electronic delivery via the internet.
The study is exploring the environmental improvements that might be achieved by changes in products, technology and services in the three chosen sectors in the period up to 2050 and beyond.
This project is complete and several publications have been produced.

For the HE sector findings see:
Roy, R., Potter, S. and Yarrow, K. (2008) Designing low carbon higher education systems. Environmental impacts of campus and distance learning systems, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education Vol. 9 Issue 2, April, pp. 116-130. (Pdf)

Roy, R., Potter, S., Yarrow, K and Smith, M. (2005) Towards Sustainable Higher Education: Environmental impacts of campus-based and distance higher education systems, Final Report, Milton Keynes: Open University Design Innovation Group, March. (Pdf)

Roy, R. Potter, S. and Yarrow, K. (2004) Towards sustainable higher education: environmental impacts of conventional campus, print-based and electronic/open learning systems, in Murphy, D.; Carr, R., Taylor, J and Wong, T..M. (eds.) (2004) Distance Education & Technology: Issues and Practice, OUHK Press, pp.129-145. ISBN 962-7707-47-3.

Roy, R. Potter, S. and Yarrow, K. (published 2004) Factoring sustainability into the higher education product-service system, Journal of Sustainable Product Design No. 2, 2002 pp. 105-117.

For the Transport sector findings see:
Potter, S. (2000): Personal Transport and Factor ‘X’, Energy and Environment, Vol 11 No 5 pp 565-71, September.

 

The Commercial Impacts of Green Product Development

This project involved an international study of sixteen small, medium and large firms that had deliberately introduced significant environmental improvements to the design of their products, through ‘greening’ existing product lines or designing new, ‘greener’ products. Most of the firms aimed to design products that would perform better, create a new market, increase or maintain market share or satisfy regulatory pressures.

 

For details see e.g:
Smith, M.T., Roy, R. and Potter, S. (1996) The Commercial Impacts of Green Product Development, Design Innovation Group, The Open University, Milton Keynes, Jul., pp. 57. (Pdf)

Roy, R., Smith, M.T. and Potter, S. (1998) Green product development – factors in competition, Barker, T. and Köhler, J. (eds.) International Competitiveness and Environmental Policies, Edward Elgar, pp. 265-275. (ISBN 1 85898 7784)

Roy, R. (1997) Design for environment in practice – development of the Hoover New Wave washing machine range, Journal of Sustainable Product Design, Issue 1, April, pp. 36-43.

 

The Design and Innovation Management Programme

This programme is concerned with the process, practice and management of product design and technological innovation in selected industrial sectors. It is also concerned with the identification of successful practice.

The Commercial Impacts of Design (CID) and
Market Demands that Reward Investment in Design (MADRID)

The CID study (1987-1990) provided information on the commercial and other outcomes of over 220 design and product development projects in small and medium-sized UK manufacturers that had received Government support for design.
MADRID, completed in 1997, was a long-term follow up to CID. A sample of 42 firms from the earlier study were revisited. The aim was to identify the long-term commercial benefits of investment in design, and the role of design relative to other factors in the survival and growth of companies during a period of economic growth and recession.

 

For more information on the CID study, see:
Potter, S. Roy, R., Capon, C. Bruce, M. Walsh, V. and Lewis, J. (1991). The Benefits and Costs of Investment in design: using professional design expertise in product, engineering and graphics projects. Design Innovation Group, Milton Keynes: The Open University and UMIST, September. (Pdf)

Roy, R. and Potter, S. (1993) The commercial impacts of investment in design, Design Studies, Vol.14 No.2 April, pp. 171-193.


For more information on MADRID, see:

Roy. R., Riedel, J. and Potter, S. (1998) Market Demands that Reward Investment in Design (MADRID): Final Report submitted to the Design Council. Design Innovation Group, Milton Keynes: The Open University, July.(Pdf)

Roy, R. and Riedel, J. (1997) Design and innovation in successful product competition, Technovation, Vol.17 No. 10, pp. 537-548.

Roy, R. with Potter, S. and Riedel, J. (1998) The long-term benefits of investment in design and product development, in Jerrard, B. et al. (eds.) Managing New Product Innovation, Taylor and Francis, pp. 142-154. (ISBN 0 7484 0859 2)

Roy, R., Riedel, J. and Potter, S. (1998) Firms and markets that profit from investment in design and product development, The Design Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 3-16.

Winning by Design

This was a ground-breaking study that investigated whether ‘good’ design was associated with commercial success. An analysis of award-winning, design-conscious firms showed that these out-performed ‘typical’ firms on several business indicators (see chart). However, awards for good design alone did not guarantee commercial success. In-depth studies revealed that the successful firms were not only good at design, but were also effective at all key business activities, including marketing, production, and quality control.

This research culminated in the publication of the widely used text:
Walsh, V., Roy, R., Bruce, M. and Potter, S. (1992). Winning by Design: Technology, Product Design and International Competitiveness, Oxford: Blackwell. (ISBN 0 631 16437 5)

 

The Design Studies Programme

This programme aims to improve understanding of design and innovation processes, for example by tracing the design evolution of products such as the bicycle and conducting case studies of product design and innovation.


Case studies of innovative product development

In this project case studies of creative and successful inventor- designers, including Sir Alex Moulton, Mark Sanders and James Dyson, were conducted to provide an insight into the creative process and a better understanding of innovative product development.
The cases illustrate:

Innovative products typically arise from personal need or direct experience of the individual inventor/designer, often as a result of using existing products and finding them unsatisfactory.
Inventors and designers tend to adopt a ‘solution-focussed’ strategy with an initial idea or ‘primary generator’ created early on which guides the product development process.
Individual inventors and designers typically employ a mix of 2D sketching and 3D physical modelling to conceive and then develop their inventions and designs.
Translating an innovative idea into a product ready for manufacture, is a difficult process involving long periods of dedicated work, the solution of many sub-problems in component design, and often several setbacks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The publications arising from this work include:

Roy, R. (1993). Case studies of creativity in innovative product development. Design Studies, Vol 14 No. 4, pp. 423-443, which won the 1993 Design Studies Award

Roy, R. (1994) The evolution of ecodesign, Technovation, Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 363-380.

Roy, R. and Tovey, M. (2011) Bicycle design: creativity and innovation, in Tovey, M. (ed.) Design for Transport, Gower (forthcoming).

The Transport and the Environment Programme

Stephen Potter and other members of the DIG have undertaken a number of transport projects, particularly involving environmental and innovation management perspectives. These have included:
a series of studies of the management of high-speed train projects, with the results also incorporated into two OU former courses on Innovation.
the impact of rail privatisation in Britain on the innovation policies and environmental strategies of the industry.
See e.g.:
Potter, S. and Roy, R. (2000) Using scenarios to identify innovation priorities in the UK railway industry. International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 229-252.
the Strategic Niche Management of innovative clean transport technologies
See e.g.:
Potter, S. (1999): Managing the design of an innovative green transport project,The Design Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 51-60.
Stephen Potter is also involved in transport studies with EERU.

 

Teaching and Educational Material

The extensive body of research experience built up by the DIG over the past twenty years has proved to be a valuable source for teaching materials. Many of the Open University’s courses have drawn upon this work, including:

 

U116 Environment: journeys through a changing world

T211 Design and Designing, in which material for the block on creativity and concept design drew on research on creativity and bicycle design from the DIG's Design Sutdies programme.

T307 Innovation: Designing for a sustainable future, which drew on material on design and innovation management, eco-design and sustainable innovation from DIG's Design for the Environment and Design and Innovation Management programmes.

U116 Environment

Contacts

Robin Roy, Director Design Innovation Group, Professor of Design and Environment,
Faculty of Maths, Computing & Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK.

Tel: +44 (0) 1908 652103/655021      robin.roy@open.ac.uk

Dr Sally Caird, Research Fellow
sally.caird@open.ac.uk

Stephen Potter, Professor of Transport Strategy,
Faculty of Maths, Computing & Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK.

Tel: +44 (0) 1908 652103/652634      stephen.potter@open.ac.uk

Dept. Engingeering and Innovation,
Faculty of Maths, Computing & Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK.

Tel: +44 (0) 1908 652103   Fax:  +44 (0) 1908 653858  

 

Page Last Updated: 30 March, 2011