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SFIP enjoyed some very favorable local press coverage last week, in the Santa Fe New Mexican and  Albuquerque Business First (summarized below). This is especially gratifying because SFIP, while global in its outlook and desired impact, works at the community scale; and we find that northern New Mexico and Santa Fe are often great test-beds for developing community-centric solutions.

In addition, SFIP has an economic development role to play in the local economy. Indeed, its genesis was as an economic development strategy for Santa Fe, posing the question:  Can a city do technology-based economic development without a research university to draw on?  And posing the answer:  let’s position Santa Fe as a globally recognized center for creative problem solving.  The original plan called for an ambitious physical facility, that would host leading organizations in residence for extended periods to assist them with their innovation challenges.  Then came the recession… Read the rest of this entry »

SFIP’s newest project, Wellness as a Complex System, embodies a simple but perhaps provocative proposal:

When it comes to social, cultural, and community factors in health and wellness, why not make the individual his or her own doctor?

The so-called “social determinants of health” are well-known to have a significant impact on a broad range of (or even all) disease outcomes. This effect is most evident in “behavioral diseases,” such as obesity/diabetes, that have behavior factors at their root (e.g., diet and exercise).

The U.S. spends $245 billion annually on diabetes care alone, and 17.6% of GDP on healthcare, and both are rising dramatically. We know a lot about what people do to make themselves sick, and what they can do to keep themselves well. Needless to say, it’s time for some innovative thinking about how we use this knowledge, and maybe even some tried-and-true user-centered design. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Or: How Incremental Tweaks Can Frustrate True Transformation

While assimilating the remarkable insights from the BIF-6 Collaborative Innovation Summit last month, produced by our valued alliance partner the Business Innovation Factory, I had the opportunity to sit with Alan Webber, a conference presenter, at his favorite café in Santa Fe. It may be the altitude, but we seem to have interesting conversations there.

This one led to a discussion of the potentially catastrophic course society seems to be following, in areas like energy, climate, and unsustainable development; industries that know they must disrupt or be disrupted, but still can’t; and the problem of why we seem to be incapable of true transformative innovation, even when we know what we need to do, and why. This led us to Jared Diamond’s essential work “Collapse.” Those who have read it will remember the question he poses, which I paraphrase: “What could have been going through the mind of the guy who cut down the last tree on Easter Island?” 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 »

As most of our local community members know, SFIP is part of a broader effort to diversify Santa Fe’s government- and tourism-based economy, and capture the city’s unique assets and attributes in a way that can propel the region into the innovation economy of the future.

Santa Fe Complex is among the more interesting and promising elements in this “innovation ecosystem,” and one with great complementary resonance for SFIP. According to its newly revamped website, “The mission of sfComplex is to create a collaborative workspace that fosters applied complexity science through interdisciplinary education, outreach, and development of innovative technologies to address real-world problems, enable social cooperation, and create economic opportunities.”  Read the rest of this entry »

The recently concluded Aspen Design Summit (November 11-14) was, at least conceptually, an important trans-disciplinary event. Growing out of a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio conference on  how design can help inform and improve  social sector delivery, the hands-on workshop (sponsored by Rockefeller and the Winterhouse  Institute in collaboration with AIGA) brought together public, private, and design sector experts to work on five well-defined (and very challenging) projects with as many client organizations. Read more about the Summit, the results, and the overall problem-solving space at Change Observer here and the Winterhouse Institute here.

As the entire “design for social change” movement gathers momentum and matures, we hope to see more organizational infrastructure emerge (and this is an area of keen interest to SFIP). One of the outcomes of the Aspen event was a proposal for New Design, a soft structure linking interested design firms to philanthropic funders and  social challenges, which may be a step in the right direction. As one summit participant oberserved: “…there’s only so much you can accomplish in three days….” What if this was one part of an “Appropriate Solutions Laboratory” @ SFIP?

In keeping with SFIP’s programmatic focus on the energy/climate challenge (see Projects page for more), this promises to be an important addition to the literature:
MIT Press releases Holdren, Schelling, and Bonvillian essays from “Energy for Change: Creating Climate Solutions,” the Fall issue of Innovations journal
In conjunction with the clean energy address that President Obama is delivering at MIT today, MIT Press is releasing essays from the soon to be published fall special issue of Innovations journal on energy and climate solution. The pre-released essays are authored by White House Science Adviser John Holdren, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics Thomas Schelling, and the Director of MIT’s Washington office, William Bonvillian.
In his introduction to the special issue, Holdren states that the forthcoming publication is “as thorough a survey of energy and climate solutions as has yet been compiled.” Of the climate challenge, he writes:
“Without energy, there is no economy. Without climate, there is no environment. Without economy and environment, there is no material well-being, no civil society, no personal or national security. The overriding problem associated with these realities, of course, is that the world has long been getting most of the energy its economies need from fossil fuels whose emissions are imperiling the climate that its environment needs.” Read the rest of this entry »

SFIP is a proud sponsor of the October 12-14 Applied Solutions Coalition Conference in Santa Fe.

From the ASC Conference website:

The main goal of the Applied Solutions Coalition is to develop a mechanism for design and funding of large, integrated renewable energy infrastructure projects. Projects should incorporate most, if not all, of the four main legs of sustainable infrastructure – transportation, renewable energy, energy and water conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Incorporating multiple aspects of sustainable infrastructure allows the technologies to build upon each other’s strengths and leverage each effect for maximum impact.

Traditional methods of infrastructure funding do not take into account the additive resource reduction benefits of such integrated projects nor do they take into account the size of funding necessary to implement such large and relatively new ideas. Capital markets and Capital Hill are not familiar with this way of thinking yet so it is the goal of Applied Solutions Coalition to forge a path to bring these new project ideas to fruition.

Read more HERE

Scroll through participating projects HERE

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Innovation Observations

Innovation Parks: Past, Present, Future

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

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SFIP Sponsors:

Los Alamos National Bank
City of Santa Fe Economic Development

Santa Fe Economic Development

John and Linda Massopust



Livingry Foundation