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Research expertise areas

Our current key areas of research include:

Product design for sustainability

We explore the principles and tools to design products with a low environmental impact throughout their entire life cycle (i.e. product ecodesign); to design products that support the transition to a circular economy, shifting away from the traditional take-make-use-dispose approach to products that can be repaired, reused, remanufactured, and recycled (i.e. circular product design); and design product that can establish a stronger and longer emotional connection with users (i.e. design for emotional durability).

Business model design for sustainability

We explore the role of design in developing business models that can enable the transition to a circular economy, by creating economic opportunities to close, narrow and slow the resource flow. This means the design of product-service systems and business models which can create the highest possible value from optimising the use of energy and the use of materials for the longest possible time.

Design for advanced materials and manufacturing

We develop innovative materials and manufacturing processes with a focus on reducing environmental impact and optimising resource use.

Design inspired by nature (Biomimetics)

We explore how design can take inspiration from nature in order to solve material, manufacturing and product innovation challenges. This can take place bi-directionally, moving from biology to design (solution-driven design) and from design to biology (problem-driven design).

Design for sustainable behavior

We study how the design of products, services and digital artefacts can shape or influence human behaviour for environmental and socio-ethical purposes. This means: making people want to perform a desired behaviour and not want to perform an undesired behaviour; making it easier for people to adopt a desired behaviour and making it harder to perform an undesired behaviour. We develop design principles and tools to support designers in shaping human behaviour.

Design for social innovation

We investigate how design can support people and communities to address socially relevant issues, with a particular emphasis on enabling them to create change within their own local environment (i.e. bottom-up community-based innovations). Even if social innovations are often driven by communities, we explore how professional designers can play a role in promoting and supporting these innovations, by making them more visible, effective, attractive, and by supporting their replication.

Design for the base of the pyramid

We explore the role of design in addressing the needs of those people and communities in developing contexts who lack the income required to satisfy basic needs as well as access to basic services. Within this perspective, a particular focus of our research is on energy access.

Design for sustainability transitions

We investigate the role of design in supporting the transformation of socio-technical systems through the integration of technological, social, organizational and institutional innovations. This includes exploring how design can support multi stakeholder processes to envision sustainable futures and to create transition pathways.

Development of design principles and tools

Transversally to the previously described areas, a strong emphasis of the group is on developing principles, frameworks and tools to enable organisations, communities and practitioners to integrate design for sustainability into their processes and practices. Most of our research projects lead to the development of new design principles and tools.