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Anyone following SFIP’s Microgrid Systems Lab (MSL) knows how many good reasons there are to move toward this highly decentralized architecture in terms of efficiency, reduced greenhouse emissions, community engagement, and alleviating energy poverty in un-wired portions of the planet.

Now, a number of recent research reports and presentations have added impetus to the microgrid trend by addressing various aspects of the business case: the economics of microgrid deployment, the pace of development, the societal value of conversion, and the cost of inaction. We’ve summarized some of the most interesting below, beginning with the “big picture” of current grid costs and potential, and then moving on to microgrids’ role and value.

Economic benefit of Smart Grid efficiencies by 2030: $2 trillion

Estimated cost: $338 billion. Courtesy of George Arnold, national coordinator for smart grid interoperability at the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Given the role that microgrids can and will play as enabling infrastructure for many of the most valuable aspects of the smart grid revolution, we can can assign some meaningful portion of this projected $2 trillion efficiency to them, going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

An excellent post over at frog’s design mind blog (“Adapt, Jugaad, Hacking, Shanzhai or the Merits of Seeing the World As It Is Not”) makes a number of crucial points, many relevant to SFIP. Among them are the idea that innovation fads come and go (remember Design Thinking?); the insight that “wrong is right,” since true innovators always “see the world as it is not”; and the corollary observation that innovation is a mindset, rather than a process that can be administered or learned, for which serendipity is key. Author Tim Leberecht focuses in on the Indian practice called Jugaad: 

“Jugaad is a remote sibling of the Western-style hacking, the manipulation of existing products and services, and with the Chinese Shanzhai phenomenon (innovation through fast imitation) it has in common the utter disrespect for any kind of brand or management ideology. Adaptation, improvisation, rapid experimentation, fast failing, a high tolerance for ambiguity, super-flexibility… together these principles are perhaps marking the beginning of a new era of doing business, a new economy.”

It’s enough to make you think that innovation is a case of emergent behavior in a complex system (which to some extent it is), beyond influence. But I would also argue that there is room for adding structure, context, and what I’ll call method (as opposed to a process) to accelerate and diffuse innovation. As one example, SFIP’s method, based on its overall problem-solving approach, features five main themes: Read the rest of this entry »

The value of  trans-disciplinary work has been demonstrated in a number of areas, proving its capacity for driving innovation. In fact, one good definition of “creativity” is simply putting together two or more things that would ordinarily remain apart. Numerous academic centers are explicitly inter- or trans-disciplinary. Stanford, for example, is attempting to incentivize such research with a dedicated grant program; Bio-X (interdisciplinary research related to biology and medicine, including engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry, and other fields); and the d.school (for multidisciplinary innovation); note that normal academic incentives and pressures serve to compartmentalize disciplines into hyperspecialized silos. While SFIP is in the vanguard of applying trans-disciplinary techniques to practical problem solving, it is certainly not alone.

Several recent and unusual pairings bring this idea, and the general necessity of cross-sector collaboration, into sharp relief. Especially within the context of the massive and urgent changes that must be accomplished on a global scale, we may all have to learn to work with the unexpected (and even “unsuitable”) partner in order to get the job done.

For example, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate recently published Renergizing America’s Defense, which “…details steps the armed forces are taking to address their energy use and carbon emissions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Santa Fe Innovation Park (SFIP) is a laboratory for developing and deploying innovative approaches to complex, practical problems. Utilizing a unique method, SFIP  creates, prototypes, tests, and scales effective solutions to pressing real-world challenges in such areas as energy, education, and health.

SFIP emphasizes new problem-solving processes and creative collaboration, and brings together individual and institutional leaders from industry and commerce; public planning and policy; science and technology; and the design, art, and creative fields.

You can read more about this new approach here, and sample our blog posts and items of current interest below.

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Innovation Observations

Innovation Parks: Past, Present, Future

Download a .pdf of SFIP's presentation to the 2009 ASC conference HERE

RSS Next: Innovation Tools & Trends – BusinessWeek

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    Plenty of architecture's biggest names have been laid low by the Great Recession, as I wrote recently in Bloomberg Businessweek. One partnership has never had it better, however: New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro. On Monday, the 60-person shop was named chief architect of billionaire Eli Broad's $80 million-plus art museum in downtown Los Ang […]
    Michael Arndt

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  • Ontario Completely Off Coal April 16, 2014
    The Canadian province of Ontario has officially shut down its last coal burning power plant. Power for the province now comes from "emission-free electricity sources like wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower, along with lower-emission electricity sources like natural gas and biomass." The province had set a target of the end of 2014 to end its use o […]
    architect@cornellbox.com (Philip Proefrock)
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