Economic review from Piemonte and Italy

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Mark Vanderbeeken, senior partner of Experientia, worked in Belgium, USA, Denmark and Italy and studied at Columbia University. Experientia practices research-based and people-centred design: helping companies and organisations conceive and innovate products, services and processes, through a qualitative understanding of peo ple, their needs and their behaviour.

What is your project on sustainable living about and what are its strong points?

The project, Low2No, is the development and implementation of a low-to-no carbon emissions building development in Helsinki. It involves the engineering and planning firm Arup (London), the architectural firm Sauerbruch Hutton (Berlin), and us. Experientia's role is to facilitate behav ioural change for more sustainable lifestyles. We're designing an advanced smart metering system for residential households, and a service platform for the entire zone. It provides people with sus tainable options for food, laundry and sauna services, and also builds awareness in the community of the values of sustain ability. We designed these services to pro vide people with sustainable options in their everyday activities.

How did Experientia become interested in environmental sustainability?
Many sustainability projects lack a people-centred approach. They often focus on technology, but forget that real sustainabil ity needs a concerted effort by people to change their behaviours.
Arup had seen our work and became inter ested in how a user experience point of view could strengthen projects on sustainability, and by teaming up helped us win the Low2No bid. Our winning proposal incl uded 50 ways to change behaviours, and focused on the people we could attract to the area, and what their lives might look like. Since then, we have gone on to develop our own behavioural change frameworks, and been involved in several other sustainability projects, from urban renewal in Denmark, to sustainable events centres in Belgium.

Do you think a similar initiative could be developed here in Piemonte?
Not only can initiatives like this be devel oped here, they must be. Let's not forget that by 2020, the European Union has commit ted itself to a 20 to 30% cut of all green-house gas emissions compared to 1990 lev els, and to public buildings that produce a considerable amount of their energy on-site. What we're creating in Helsinki will hope fully become a blueprint that the rest of the world can follow in the next decade.

What support have you received from Finnish institutions?
Apart from the client itself, Sitra, which is the main Finnish Innovation Fund, we've had an encouraging amount of support and interest from Finnish institutions. It's been a really participatory process so far, which has involved local and national politicians and business leaders in gathering opinions, and has even had some impact on some Finnish building practice regulations. Our service platform itself was designed in collaboration with the entrepreneurs who will eventually run those businesses.

National Prize for Innovation

Mark Vanderbeeken was one of the first businessmen to be interviewed in E-periscope, back in 2008; today he returns, after winning the National Prize for Innovation for the service platform of the Low2No project.

The National Prize for Innovation was created in 2008 by the Italian Government as a key initiative of the National Innovation Day. It is an annual opportunity to raise aware ness of the issue among the public and to coordinate all the various pub lic and private entities, focusing on the state of the art of innovation in the country and sharing the strategic targets to be reached, even in a European and OECD framework.

The Government wants to use this initiative to draw attention to the best examples of innovation in industry, design, universities, public research, public government and services, including banking.

The Prize is open to all companies that have registered offices in Italy, whose primary activity is in com merce, tourism and services to busi ness or to the individual. It examines ideas, models, technological appli cation processes, means and/or places of exploitation and/or innova tive design techniques -such as Service Design or Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME)which make it possible to create new or significantly improved services in the Italian and/or export market.

The Prize has the following categories:
  • Innovation in Commerce
  • Innovation in Tourism
  • ICT in Services 
  • Service Design in Services


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