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Sustainable Energy for All Design Toolkit

The absence or inadequacy of most basic energy services represent a major obstacle for socio-economic development in rural areas in low-income and developing contexts.

This PhD research aimed to address the issue of energy access by exploring the combination of Product-Service Systems (PSS) with Distributed Renewable Energy systems (DRE). This combination represents a new design approach to explore promising business models for energy access and to deliver clean and affordable solutions in low-income contexts. The overall aim of this research was to explore the applications of PSS and DRE in low-income and developing contexts, thus defining characteristics of these models, their variables and critical factors. Additionally, this research aimed at developing support for companies, practitioners and other stakeholders for designing sustainable PSS applied to DRE, with a specific focus on the idea generation phase of new solutions.

The first part of this PhD resulted in the development of a classification system for PSS applied to DRE, in the identification of 15 Archetypal Models and in the collection of critical factors to successfully implement these models. Then, these findings have been translated into three tools for designing PSSs applied to DRE: the Innovation Map, the Design Framework and Cards, the Energy System Map. These tools have been tested, refined and evaluated through a series of iterative applications in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and the UK. Through the testing activities, which involved a wide range of companies, NGOs, practitioners and experts, the usefulness, usability and completeness of the tools were demonstrated. This research concludes with reflections on the design process for different scenarios of applications and by highlighting further research activities for the field of PSS applied to DRE in low-income and developing contexts.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Fabrizio Ceschin
Dr Fabrizio Ceschin - I am a Reader in Design for Sustainability, coordinator of the Design for Sustainability research group and member of the Design for Sustainable Manufacturing research theme. I worked in the Design and Innovation for Sustainability research unit at Politecnico di Milano for six years before joining Brunel University London in 2012. I carry out research in the area of: - Design for Sustainability and Circular Economy, and in particular in developing principles, strategies and tools to innovate and design products, services, product-service systems and business models integrating environmental, socio-ethical and economic sustainability; - Co-design, and in particular on how to support multi-stakeholder and participatory design processes. Over the past years I have been involved in several international and national research projects, funded by the European Commission, EPSRC, Innovate UK, the British Council, SMEs and multinational enterprises. My research projects have resulted in more than 50 journal and conference publications and 4 books. I have been teaching in the area of design for sustainability over the past 15 years. I am currently teaching modules on Environmentally sensitive design (BA and BSc) and Sustainable design (MSc), and I am director of the MSc Integrated Product Design. I am member of the EPSRC Peer Review College, the Design Research Society and the British Industrial Design Association, and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Education I obtained a BSc and MSc equivalent degrees in Industrial Design awarded by Politecnico di Milano in Italy. In 2009 I started my doctoral research in design for sustainability at Politecnico di Milano, which was completed in 2012.

Related Research Group(s)


Design for Sustainability - We focus on developing the theory and practice required to design solutions that foster environmental, socio-ethical and economic sustainability in areas ranging from materials and manufacturing to products, services, business models, bottom-up initiatives and socio-technical systems.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 21/11/2023