SPIRIT – Sustainable Product Innovation Research Initiative, Sweden

Executive Summary: By integrating the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) with product development theories and models, researchers are creating improved methodology for sustainable product-service system (PSS) development. Also developing, and integration into this methodology, methods and tools for modeling and simulation of technical systems and specialist engineering competences, a comprehensive support for sustainable PSS innovation, throughout the whole innovation process, is created. This systems-thinking approach and the use of advanced modeling and simulation will help organizations to make better decisions for both their companies and communities.

Background: A product’s socio-ecological impacts – positive and negative throughout its life cycle – are largely determined by decisions during early phases of the innovation process. Bringing in sustainability thinking in a systematic way into this process, especially in its early phases, offers a great potential for improved sustainability performance and thus for improved competitiveness on the increasingly sustainability-driven market. This includes looking at new business models, such as Product-Service Systems (PSS). PSS is a commercially driven network of companies that delivers certain customer services. PSS business models are unconventional in that they are not focused on selling physical products but rather to lease them to deliver customer services. A PSS is conscious of consumer needs and desires and is often cost competitive and potentially better from a life-cycle sustainability perspective compared to traditional business models based on revenues mainly from physical product sales.

Purpose of the Program: To develop capacity for PSS innovation that promotes sustainability.

FSSD Integration: The FSSD is being integrated with product development theories and models to create methodology for sustainable product-service system development. The principles for sustainability included in the FSSD and their implications in different life-cycle stages have, e.g., informed the generation of a set of probing questions that force product- and business developers to think about and address sustainability issues during the different phases of the development process.

Implications for Managers: Improved methods and advanced simulations will identify areas for improvement throughout all areas of the PSS life-cycle. The production of a product or service that considers the competition, the consumer, the environment and society at large alike will grow a company through improved reputation, customer recognition, and financial savings and earnings from, e.g., more efficient resource management, staff engagement and captured innovation opportunities.

Implications for Researchers: The methods and tools developed in the SPIRIT program are unique in that they integrate a full sustainability perspective. They help developers expand their view from a traditional focus on known environmental problems to the remaining gap to full sustainability. This often stimulates “out of the box” solutions and guides the planning of incremental improvements so that they fit into a viable strategy towards sustainability.

Methods: Many research methods are used, such as literature reviews, interviews, observations, hypotheses generation and testing, case studies, participation action research, etc. All projects are performed in close cooperation with business and society. Real problems are addressed to ensure relevance and accurate problem definitions are co-generated between researchers and practitioners. Testing in real-life situations are performed to ensure validity and appropriateness of the developed methods and tools and for generation of real change already during the research projects.

Program Lead and Contact:
Göran Broman, Professor, Director, goran.broman@bth.se
Tobias Larsson, Professo, Director, tobias.larsson@bth.se

Program Team – all at the Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH):
Kjell Ahlin, Professor
Göran Broman, Professor
Claes Hedberg, Professor
Tobias Larsson, Professor
Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Professor
Oleg Rudenko, Professor
Ansel Berghuvud, PhD
Sophie Hallstedt, PhD, Department Head
Anna Harding, Project Assistant
Anders Jönsson, PhD
Sharon-Kao-Walter, PhD
Henrik Ny, PhD
Massimo Panarotto, PhD candidate
Johan Wall, PhD
Mats Walter, PhD, Department Head
Cecilia Bratt, PhD-student
Cesar Levy Franca, PhD-student
Johan Fredin, PhD-student
Andreas Josefsson, PhD-student
Armando Leon, PhD-student
Pia Lindahl, PhD-student
Martin Magnevall, PhD-student
Merlina Missimer, PhD-student
Anthony Thompson, PhD-student
Jan-Anders Månsson, Lecturer, Bachelor Program manager
Stefan Sjödahl, Lecturer



Göran Broman:  gbr@bth.se