‘State of the Art’ Sustainable Innovation & Design

Part of the ‘Towards Sustainable Product Design’ series of conferences

20th International Conference
9th-10th November 2015
University for the Creative Arts
KT18 5BE


Sustainable Innovation 2015 will provide a platform to discuss the opportunities and challenges related to the “state of the art” in sustainable innovation and design related to products, services, technologies and new business models. Sustainable Innovation 2015 will include invited and refereed papers from academics, consultants, entrepreneurs, technology providers, designers and innovation and sustainability directors as well as other business functions. The event will create a unique space for learning, networking and thinking. Delegates will come globally from large companies and SMEs, as well as academia, government and non-governmental organisations. The conference is supported by an international Advisory Board.


Over the last 20 years, there has been increasing global discussion of climate change, its mitigation through reduced emissions and now increasingly how to adapt to it. Resource efficiency and security have moved up the policy and business agenda (and more recently ‘circular economy’ thinking has gained momentum). ‘Green growth’ is now an integral part of international policy making discussions. The product agenda has also developed and evolved. European policy discussions related to Integrated Product Policy (IPP) in the 90s morphed into Sustainable Consumption & Production (SCP) in the 00s; and research into sustainable Product-Service-Systems (PSS) in the early 00s has re-emerged under Green Business Models in the 2010s. ‘Producer responsibility’ legislation was implemented in the European and Japanese electronics and automotive sectors in the early to mid 00s, with more of a focus on “end of life” management. However, the international product policy focus is now moving to reducing lifecycle design impacts at the “front” rather than at the “end of pipe”. We saw high visibility of climate change in the early to mid 00s with a decline in media interest following the banking crisis in 2008. Interest is set to rise again as we move towards the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in November 2015 which aims to reset global action on climate change. We have seen the economic rise of China and India, and now Africa. The internet has become pervasive, allowing massive real-time access to information. Social networking technologies have enabled the accelerated sharing of ideas and information, and new “open” innovation approaches are emerging that enable greater collaboration.

From a relatively small number of green niche players and a few leaders in the manufacturing sector implementing eco-design in the early to mid 90s we have seen a broadening of the sectors and stakeholders engaged in the greening of products. However, most of the focus is still on eco-design rather than sustainable design, and is on product-related environmental compliance rather than innovation or new business models. The emergence of discussion around eco-innovation has expanded the policy focus to thinking through the overall innovation process of creating, developing and commercialising eco-innovative products, services and technologies. Greening of mainstream products is now happening alongside the development of specialist solutions to specific environmental problems. However, the social dimension is still largely missing, outside of “bottom of the pyramid” and ethical product discussions. Increasingly large companies are developing their own organisational approaches to managing eco-design and measuring product-related environmental performance, technically and financially. As the importance of brands has grown we have seen more companies fully or partially outsourcing design and manufacturing, which has meant that addressing environmental (and social) risks related to supply networks has become more important. Over the past 10 years there has been an increasing push by major manufacturers and retailers for suppliers to collect, analyse and present product-related environmental data for compliance purposes, and to help identify “hotspots” where improvements can be made. Since 1995, many product-related environmental laws and standards have been passed and books, journal papers and articles written and conferences held. But where are we now? Managing product sustainability has become a much more important issue for many companies now compared to 20 years ago but there is still a long way to go.

What will the next 20 years look like? And what threats and opportunities will emerge for product/service designers, developers and new business modellers? The challenge of climate change and resource efficiency will become more and more apparent and policy-makers and business will be increasingly forced to adapt to this. Policy-makers are shifting from a focus on incremental improvements through eco-design to more radical and systemic eco-innovation models, but thinking is still at an early stage. Global urbanisation will continue and cities may increasingly start to act as catalysts for the development of sustainable solutions. More graduates will emerge with knowledge of sustainability that will feed through into society and grassroots innovation will increase, powered by a new spirit of collaboration, making, modifying and fixing, and improved access to ideas, information, facilities and tools. The development of more decentralised, circular approaches to production and consumption will become more prevalent. All this may herald a new Industrial Renaissance as we move to a new economy, that is inclusive, circular and low carbon – this will provide a range of new opportunities and challenges for product, service, materials and technology developers. The world keeps changing and it will continue to do so, at perhaps an even faster and more unpredictable rate; this change will continue to drive innovation but will it be in a more sustainable direction?

Conference Topics

Sustainable Innovation 2015 welcomes conceptual and research-based papers focused on the “state of the art” of sustainable innovation and design. Papers should cover sustainability, innovation, product, service or technology design, and development and commercialisation issues related to the following topics:


Sustainable Innovation 2015 will provide a range of benefits to speakers and delegates:

Forum for new thinking, ideas and concepts
Presentations from key international researchers, practitioners and policy-makers
New research, results and thinking
Opportunities to meet business, government and academia
Over 2300 delegates from over 50 countries have attended previous events

Submission details

Email, fax or post 500 word abstracts describing your proposed paper by 18th May 2015. The paper will then be sent to the Advisory Board for evaluation and authors will be given feedback by June 2015. The highest rated papers will be invited to present at the conference. Please only submit abstracts if you have budgets to attend the conference.

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For more information on Sustainable Innovation 2015   please contact:

Professor Martin Charter
The Centre for Sustainable Design ®
University for the Creative Arts
Farnham Campus
Tel: + 44 (0) 1252 892772
Fax: + 44 (0) 1252 892747

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