Our exploration of Space has dramatically pushed the boundaries of what we know and it has lead to numerous innovative concepts, technologies and materials. Down to Earth is a Swedish ten-year initiative which involves space agencies, companies and universities to develop sustainable innovations inspired by space solutions.
Down to Earth aim for industrial renewal, job creation and sustainable growth, which requires new thinking and methods. Down to Earth has developed a cross-over innovation process that generates new innovations and ideas with focus on sustainability. A selection of the concepts generated in the first phase of the project are exhibited at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, “Better City, Better Life”.
Space technology transfer
Space technologies, materials and concepts are strategic sources for new innovations in Earth bound businesses. A calculation made by the European Space Agency, ESA, shows that for every Euro invested in space, a return of 20 Euros are generated as spin-offs in other businesses.
Umbilical Design AB has been contracted as the National Technology Transfer Initiative for Sweden by the European Space Agency, ESA, with a responsibility to develop space technology transfer to Swedish industry. To accelerate this process, the Down to Earth project started as a strategic partnership between Jönköping International Business School and Umbilical Design.
The goal is to link space technologies to earthly problems, showing how space missions deal with scarce resources (energy, water, air and living space) and how these innovations can be applied to existing industries and communities. The theme will therefore be “Innovation for Sustainability.” The project has the objective to deploy technologies, concepts and ideas developed for applications in space as inspiration for innovative products and businesses in various industries, addressing environment and sustainability challenges, and enabling young people to create new innovative, sustainable jobs.
A mind challenging initiative
The mind challenging partnership between the initiators Umbilical Design and Jönköping International Business School, in collaboration with Konstfack and The Natural Step, has resulted in a first portfolio of radical concepts, developed with initial partners Electrolux, Academedia and Lidköping Municipality. The Space Innovation Module exhibited in Swedish pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 visualizes how these new products and services respond to sustainability challenges and contribute to global change.
The project started in the fall 2009 and the first phase of innovation workshops were carried out during the spring 2010, with support from the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. Down to Earth open innovation process has been applied and tested with different businesses ranging from global product companies to small and medium sized services businesses as well as sustainable city development. The compact workshop processes have delivered more than 100 ideas and innovations possible to commercialize.
The ambition is to make Down to Earth a global project generating millions of new jobs for young people based on more sustainable concepts and technologies. A future area is to use “frugal innovation” aimed at creating highly robust but low cost innovations aimed at poor areas in developing countries. We hope that our endeavors will stimulate creative spin-off and contribute to the future spirit of innovation.