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dmi:Design Value Award Winner - GEDS, and European Commission
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dmi:Design Value Award Winner

 

 

 

GEDS, and European Commission, 20 Partner Orgs in 9 EU Countries, 131 Elderly Co-Designers

MATUROLIFE: Innovative Assistive Technology

 

The Metallization of Textiles to make Urban living for Older people more Independent and Fashionable project, known as MATUROLIFE, is a user-driven innovation project with 20 partners in 9 EU countries. The project focuses on the development of assistive technologies (AT), smart products that use advanced material innovations such as electrochemistry and nanotechnology in footwear, clothing, and furniture to help make independent urban living easier for the elderly. MATUROLIFE is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research program and has a budget of 6 million euros. 

GEDS, an Istanbul-based design consultancy with a strong focus on design research, was the lead design company on the project. Their challenge was twofold: First was to work across multiple disciplines within a complex set of parameters to develop functional prototypes that meet the needs of the end user. Second was to create a structure and process by which participants on the project from 20 companies, 9 countries, and 6 types of organizations with different styles, priorities and subject languages would work together, integrating the working culture of European Commission projects.

The project started in January 2018. In the planning phase, understanding and mapping capabilities of the teams were critical to set the strategies and tools for an iterative Design Management process. Virtual calls helped to establish team capabilities and define the gaps. The consortium was multidisciplinary and included engineers, chemists, designers, manufacturers, and psychologists. Everyone was trained on basic design methodologies. Service design maps, iteration tools, user scenarios, and interaction details were used to create a common language for designers and non-designers alike. GEDS prioritized creating an organizational culture connected to human stories, deemphasizing the role of individual designers, instead using collaboration and consensus decision-making by multidisciplinary partners aligned around user stories. 

  • The early design research explored the health and independence needs of the older population in Europe. 37 semi-structured interviews were undertaken with older adults in France, Italy, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The findings led to the generation of personas, a list of requirements, experience highlights and guiding design principles for the project.
  • Design work was then initiated through a series of 10 co-creation workshops involving 94 participants in 9 countries in 7 different languages. The co-creation approach involved multi-disciplinary teams responding to the insights and requirements that emerged from the research, working to develop ideas for new products.
  • A significant element of the workshops was collaborative development of service design maps and detailed user journeys to map interactions with the proposed products. This was an important activity to align partners and develop a shared understanding of the project scope and direction.
  • Design Management tools were valuable in ensuring ease and consistency in facilitating the workshops, capturing of the workshop content, and the translation of the workshop outputs.
  • Following the co-creation workshops, design and development for each of the three prototypes was then facilitated and reviewed through a series of meetings and internal co-creation workshops.
  • Then technology teams worked on developing the required tech for smart assistive footwear to improve balance and reduce the risk of falling, clothing to help regulate body temperature, and smart furniture to support sit-stand movement.

During all stages of the project, aligning design and non-design teams with different backgrounds, styles and priorities was prioritized. GEDS facilitated the sharing of knowledge between the participants disciplines. Design Management helped non-designers working in material science learn design skills as co-designers. Industrial Designers advanced their knowledge in Service Design, Design Research and Design Management.

The financial value that was delivered is twofold. First is the value in the AT market for the elderly. The world’s population is living longer. By 2050, the number of people aged 60 years and older is expected to be 2 billion. More than one-third of people aged over 75 have physical, mental or sensory impairments that require long-term care. The cost of that care is predicted to grow to approximately €609 billion in the EU zone by 2060. If smart AT products developed by MATUROLIFE help keep just 10% of elderly over 75 out of expensive long-term care, it could save EU member states €60 billion. The project shows industries in the tech sector that value can be found in serving a growing elderly population.  

Second, the failure rate among products and services introduced in the business world each year is up to 80%, and a higher failure rate in EC research projects can be expected, where aligning many partners from countries with different cultures, priorities, and subject languages is a key challenge. Delivering a successful Design Management process in a highly demanding project proves the value of the discipline and creates proof of concept for a Design Management driven project management market worth billions of euros. 

MATUROLIFE’s principal investigator Professor Andrew Cobley of Coventry University summarized impact of the work: “As principal investigator for the whole of the MATUROLIFE project – and as an electrochemist by training – I always knew that one of the greatest challenges this project faced was communication. To be effective, we needed people from such differing disciplines as chemistry and creative design, electronic engineering and textile manufacturing to be able to understand each other and communicate effectively. Design Management has helped us tear down those barriers and with a common goal and strong commitment, the consortium has created radical and exciting designs for assistive technology for older adults."

The MATUROLIFE initiative is a clear demonstration of the value of rigorous Design Management applied in a highly complex multidisciplinary collaboration between academic institutes and industry.

 

  
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