In its simplest form, "consumer cleantech" means products and services that can help us behave more ecologically in everyday life, involving solutions related to living, transportation, eating and procuring goods.
The word "technology" limits the inspection to technological, and often digital, solutions. When speaking of consumer cleantech, we are not usually referring to innovations, such as "pulled oats" or new packaging materials to replace plastics, for example, although they do afford consumers more ecologically friendly lifestyles.
As such, drawing clear distinctions is unnecessary. The circular economy will change the way companies perceive the lifespans of their products and services. In any case, we will need consumer products and services in all sectors that will minimise our ecological footprint and reduce the amount of energy and material required in our everyday lives. Population growth, climate change and consumers' understanding of environmentally harmful factors will ensure increasing demand for these solutions in the future, whether digital or physical.
Digital solutions have one clear advantage, however. They are not limited to one location, and their scalability is often better than solutions requiring the transportation of materials. Platforms for purchasing waste food from restaurants at reduced prices or for renting a neighbour's car are easily accessible in both Helsinki and New York.
Companies developing digital services are not free from marketing efforts, footwork and achieving a solid understanding amongst consumers, however. Demos interviewed start-up companies working in the consumer cleantech field in 2015. One challenge raised by the entrepreneurs was that many companies in the field were born out of a desire to find solutions to climate change or other environmental issues, and not business or consumer needs.
We are accomplished in the digital business, as exemplified by the impressive success stories in the game industry. This talent cannot be copied directly, since purchasing new solutions in the consumer cleantech field may require concrete changes to everyday behaviour. This is the part where Finnish service design experts step in. When the viewpoint in service development is focused around finding a solution that genuinely makes consumers' lives easier while saving money and providing experiences or socially visible prizes, the pieces for making a hit product fall into place. As long as it is made available to consumers through means of marketing. Large product launches are not born without resources. The ability to gather funds, even from international investors, becomes important.
For these reasons, we are not satisfied in simply funding product development in the CleanWeb-programme; rather, we offer ourselves as diverse sparring partners and support services, ranging all the way from international business accelerators to direct contacts around the world. Currently, we are eagerly waiting for Allas Sea Pool's SmartUp Thursday, where we will join experts in consumer research, service design and marketing, as well as businesses in the field in contemplating how to create the next hit product for responsible consumers.