DR. ELS DU BOIS
University of Antwerp - Product Development
HOW I CAN HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
Being part of a University, our aim is to educate young people and enable them to learn and get inspired. Within the department of Product Development, both the bachelor as well as the master education program aim to support students’ interest, competences, and enthusiasm to develop new products for new markets. We learn them to deal with dynamic markets, the evolving society, and so changing needs. Students learn to manage an innovation process in a creative manner by using specific methodologies to go through all phases of an integral product development process. In brief, the goal is mastering product innovation. From a sustainability perspective, we are educating our future product developers in ecodesign and encouraging/strengthening their sustainable mind-set within all their design tasks.
Besides, the department is strengthened by a research group that is closely connected with the educational program,. The mission of the Product Development research group is to enhance scientific knowledge that empowers the creation of innovative products to improve human well-being. Changing socio-economic context and technological and scientific evolution provide opportunities and challenges for society and industry by enhancing scientific knowledge that integrates human, technological and economic insights into problem-solving methods, we enable the development of innovative products and product services.
In particular, our focus is on the domain of ecodesign (design for sustainability), which includes design for a circular economy. Within ecodesign, we support knowledge creation towards more sustainable development throughout the complete lifecycle of products. Our research specifically focusses on the following three areas:
(i) Material experience: smart material selection, user-centred material characteristics, material identity of new materials (e. g. biomaterials, second raw materials such as recycled plastics); design FROM recycling
(ii) Sustainable experience: changing people’s sustainable behaviour by increasing life quality, product lifetime extension, development and evaluation of product service systems, achieving sustainable behaviour by experience; sustainable ownership; green e-commerce
(iii) Closing the loop: product end of life management, product reuse, component reuse, recycling, pre-composting of organic waste, plastic soup, sorting behaviour
TO MAKE A BIGGER IMPACT I NEED:
We are currently looking for partners to extend
- our research: the multi-disciplinarity of product development as well as the wicked sustainable problems can only be tackled in close collaborations and partnerships. We are especially looking partners that offer specific cases
- our educational program: to achieve a high quality education program, close cooperation with industry is crucial. Therefore, we are constantly looking for companies that offer their sustainable problems as well as their support to our students, to allow them to practice their skills, test new tools and get insights in how industry is organized.
Expertise that would help us to increase our impact is related to:
- Expertise on how to valorise sustainable product concepts
- Detailed knowledge on specific sustainable problems
We are constantly looking for resources:
- to support our young graduates to succeed their projects: Many promising graduation project unfortunately stop after the students got their degree, because they lack the financial resources, they do not have the right network and contacts to proceed with it, and because they lack knowledge on actual commercialisation and business development.
I CAN OFFER:
Offered services and expertise:
We are offering a group of young enthusiast design students that are willing to act as ‘wild gooses’ find sustainable solutions and/or to develop new products or products service systems to reduce our environmental impact and increase our life quality. Different opportunities are available within the educational program, varying from short ‘Ideate for sustainability’-sessions (1 day sessions); workshop and innovation weeks (in which they tackle a specific problem with a mixed group during one week); or bachelor and master graduation projects to develop new sustainable concepts.
We offer cooperation in design research projects to explore sustainable problems, to design solutions, prototype solutions and use them to extend our knowledge on ecodesign. Moreover, within our research, we also support the translation/valorisation of scientific knowledge into useful and desired product concepts, tools and methods
Service provision: We provide advice to both Flemish and multinational companies to lower the environmental impact of their products and improve their qualitative life cycle analysis. We give presentations & classes to industry, academia and government on ecodesign, design for a circular economy, and on sustainable consumption to a broad audience in order to increase the sustainable awareness and offer insights in how everyone can contribute to a better world.
We wrote a peer-reviewed book on Ecodesign, as an attempt to fulfil the perceived need within industry to bring clarity in the mass of ecodesign’ perceptions by offering clear definitions, relations, approaches, tools, and strategies. The book is currently only available in Dutch, but we are open for translation opportunities. The book is currently available at
Design from Recycling is a new approach within the concept of circular economy, which examines to what extent a new product can be produced from an existing flow of recycled polymers, and the design specifications this entails. As a result of this research, we developed a Determinator box, to enable designers to design with recycled plastics by offering the necessary knowledge and tactile experience of specific industrial recycled plastics. Actually, to create the unique identity of these second raw materials, both the technical characterisation as well as the unique sensorial and experiential aspects of the recycled material streams were collected to differentiate a new material on the market, instead of replacing or imitating traditional materials in existing products. The Determinator Box that contains a design manual (a guide with tips & tricks and do’s & don’ts for designing with recycled plastics); two design experience booklets (that illustrate two cases); and fifteen samples as well as material identity cards (that contain the technical data sheets and user-centred evaluations) of the recycled/virgin materials’ Determinators. The box is available at:
THESE SUSTAINABILITY GOALS HAVE MY FOCUS
Does your organisation want to make a bigger positive impact?
Are you on a quest for eco-friendly innovations and best practices?
Do you have an eco-initiative that needs expertise, resources or funding?
Would you like to offer expertise, resources or capital to help create a sustainable future?
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