Page 1

Rural Spark.

TU/e 55th Anniversary Awards Application by Evan Mertens MSc & Marcel van Heist MSc Eindhoven University of Technology, July 2011


Summary Mainly western countries are implementing programs for using energy more sustainable. However, especially undeveloped countries undergo a large growth in energy demand, in population size, and in wealth. India excels in this growth and is expected to continue this growth for the coming decades. The energy situation for rural Indians has only marginally changed this century. As the current energy infrastructure is failing, there is an opportunity to leapfrog the western centralized energy infrastructure and directly grow a distributed energy network from the bottom-up. In Europe, different companies and institutions are working on new technologies as smart networks and heat storage. However, the established infrastructure in Europe prevents them from implementing many of these promising technologies. In the graduation projects of M.M.G. van Heist (2011) and E. Mertens (2011) it was showed that there is a large potential for enabling villagers to share energy and thereby grow their own distributed energy network in India. The Rural Spark project combines the research from institutions and companies like the TU/e with direct feedback and results in a new market. By uniting research and action in one platform, all partners get in direct access with users who have the potential to start the next world energy network. Mr. Ranjit, Light renting entrepreneur in Sankuhi (M.P. India), empowered through the ‘Creating Rural Energy’ project by M.M.G. van Heist (2011)



Content overview Summary


Content overview




The Rural Spark project


Initial partners


Budget and Planning








A kerosine lamp in the rural village Maharajpur, the primary source of light in the village

Introduction Energy in India The world’s population is facing problems as a result of an unsustainable way of living. A large energy demand, mainly supplied by unsustainable fossil fuels, contributes to these problems. As a result, mainly western countries are implementing programs for energy demand reduction and they are increasing the use of sustainable solutions. However, especially undeveloped countries undergo a large growth in energy demand, in population size, and in wealth. India excels in this growth and is expected to continue this growth for the coming decades. energy use in the villages, kerosine for light

In India, most developments are taking place in urban areas. An unequal development in combination with a large rate of urbanization is driving the growth of the gap between urban and rural living conditions. The energy situation for rural Indians has only slowly changed in the last decades. Many villagers still lack access to electricity (around 400.000.000 people) many health and environmental problems. Consequently, in rural Indian areas there is a large potential for improvements in the living conditions and for the creation of a more sustainable energy infrastructure. Access to energy enables rural people to participate in modern agriculture and can connect them to the globalized world. 7

Bottom-up distributed network In contrast to the failing structured top-down approach of the government for supplying energy, we follow a more organic bottom-up approach. Instead of implementing an energy infrastructure or supplying energy products, we collaboratively design sharing tools in context to enable the villagers to create their own network and to share generated energy. As a result, (sustainable) standalone energy generators can become part of this Rural Spark project is to: “Spark the growth of a bottom-up energy and information network by cooperating with the villagers into designing the required tools and infrastructure from within the context.�

The vision The foundation of the Rural Spark project is a vision on future energy networks in rural India. In the graduation project of Evan (Mertens, 2011), for the master Building Service, this vision is explored and adapted to the prospected energy situation in India in 2030. The pursuit vision can be described in some key sentences:

_ Generating and sharing of electricity, as well as information and cooking heat, can be done by all classes of people;

_ The tools and requirements for energy- sharing and generation, use as many standards as possible and allow for others to design better or other tools which enable growth of the network;

_ The network includes sharing of information and is distributed among all participants. The participants

themselves are responsible for the functioning of the network and are independent of centralized institutions;

_ Both simple and advanced technologies may be used to create an adaptable network which is capable of extending and maintaining itself in a distributed fashion;

_ The network participates in improving the living standards of all classes, promotes a sustainable way of living and may become an inspiration for future western energy solutions.


Local entrepreneurship, the road to Sankuhi

From vision to action Inspired by our vision, we go beyond research towards actually designing something real, starting the real thing. From Marcel’s graduation project (Heist, 2011), for the master of Industrial Design, we found what the role of design could be in this project. in the Indian people and their way of interaction. To get results, a method where we move the design studio into the context is required. The solutions to meet the vision should be designed from within the culture. By designing in context, the feedback loop is very short. Every action performed by the designer is reacted upon by the culture and the local people. This results in a large amount of feedback contributing to direct new actions. If one approach fails, the reason for failing can be determined and a the local social structure instead of imposing it. To go beyond theoretical models into practical results, which are scalable and successful, every new concept (the need to share information, maintenance Furthermore, the biggest conclusion of the research performed by Marcel is that we should accept the local people and stakeholders and allow them to design the energy network and all the systems and schemes involved in it. Our vision, based on technological improvements and our search towards a more sustainable energy future, can be translated into their language to spark local entrepreneurship and creativity. Many systems and products have been designed to bring electricity in villages in India,

To reach the vision of distributed energy and information networks in India, we aim to transform our research and technological insights into concrete tools which stimulate the local people and local stakeholders in India to design the actual energy and information network.



11in Sankuhi using the lamp which A family was locally built and designed by Marcel during his graduation project

The Rural Spark project During both our graduation projects we experienced interest from all kinds of people and institutions. Apparently our action focussed approach inspired people. We showed them that in a short time, with small means, an actual contribution can be made. Still we experience that these, and other, skilled and competent parties are unable to make a valuable contribution into changing the situation in rural India. The Rural Spark project aims to open the eyes of all interested parties by showing them how their visions and ideas can be put into practice and already make a difference. Moreover, their envisioned ideas can become more realistic when put into practice in an early stage. Through the 55th anniversary award we are able to facilitate a platform which connects current and future partners to enable concrete projects in rural India. Theoretical visions are translated into concrete results through design, to reach the objective of the Rural Spark project (illustrated on the right). The different stages attract different types of partners. During the coming academic year, we plan to make a start in creating this platform. Our graduation projects inspired already some partners to think with us about the shape of the platform. They are willing to contribute and support our effort. Together with them and other creative people we aim to develop a new kind of platform with a large focus on actual energy and information network development in India inspiring and inspired by a vision on sustainable energy networks. Apart from initiating the platform, the 55th anniversary award enables us to continue the work for actual growing the energy network in practice. The concept of enabling villagers to share light (small batteries with LED’s), as started during the graduation project of Marcel, will be extended and improved. By enabling more villagers to share light with the use of different kind of tools, more insight in user demands can be gained and the amount of participants in the network can grow. The feedback of this action research showcases the result of action focussed projects for the platform. The aim for this project, supported by the 55th anniversary award, is to launch this platform at the end of the coming academic year. During a symposium we will combine the visions of the current partners and new interested partners and present our platform and work we did in India to initiate the start of a larger project toward creating bottom-up energy and information networks in India. 12

Research and Industry Institutions and companies that work towards sustainable energy solutions and rural development studies

(Student) Design Projects Design driven projects with a ‘design-in-context’ approach to bring the vision to rural India

Rural Development The vision, brought into towards developing rural areas in India, empowering local villagers and stakeholders





Initial partners “My lamps give my neighbours better light. There is not enough kerosene for every household and the kerosene is unhealthy, we can not do without the sharing of electric lighting any more. An extra functionality for charging my mobile phone would improve it even more.” - Mr. Ranjit, Entrepreneur rural village Sankuhi Madhya Pradesh India “With Ideal & Co, we aim to apply our design skills in sustainable- and multi-cultural projects. The envisioned approach, presented in this project, is very similar to our ideals. We think that designing in context is the way to go towards having an impact through design. The proposed platform will inspire us and we would be very happy to contribute our design skills in potential future projects” - Thies Timmermans and Jurre Groenenboom Designers at Ideal & Co, Amsterdam “Zijn werk (Evan’s afstuderen) is een voorbeeld van een realistische bottom-up benadering voor een transitie naar een duurzame samenleving. Als zodanig is het een inspiratiebron voor gericht onderzoek op deze universiteit naar integrale distributienetwerken, kleinschalige thermo-chemische opslag en zonneenergiesystemen.” - Prof. ir. P.G.S. Rutten Building Physics and Systems Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning “[…] is het voor NIUW van belang dat er meer inzicht wordt verkregen in de mogelijkheden van en behoefte de huidige energie behoefte, informatiebehoefte en de informatiestromen zoals die er op dit moment zijn in landelijk India… NIUW steunt jullie gezamelijke initiatief van harte omdat de manier waarop jullie beiden op geheel eigen wijze invulling hebben gegeven aan het centrale thema rondom jullie afstuderen, duidelijk bewijst dat er sprake is van synergie.” - Ir. Robert Busschers NIUW Innovative Concepts


new methods and tools for designers. Therefore I highly recommend Marcel van Heist and Evan Mertens to continue this work with the support of the 55th anniversary award.” - Dr. O. Tomico, Assistant Professor Designing Quality in Interaction Faculty of Industrial Design “The proposed platform will allow the research work we do here, concerning the changing role of a multidisciplinary designer, to be put into practice in an extreme context. Together with the people conducting the design work in India (possibly Industrial Design students), we can build our academic understanding of participatory research methods, which underlying principles might be applicable in any design project. We support the setup of the platform and we are willing to academically contribute to the research publications that it might produce.” - Prof. dr. C.J. Overbeeke Designing Quality in Interaction Faculty of Industrial Design - Dr. ir. C.C.M. (Caroline) Hummels Director education Faculty of Industrial Design “With limited time and means, the graduation projects show already the potential of actually applying western vision and research in India. The aim to research a network beyond just energy towards an intelligent information and the action based approach of the proposed platform can inspire and enrich our work.” - Prof. dr. E.H.L. (Emile) Aarts Philips Research


Budget and Planning Sep ‘11

Oct ‘11

Nov ‘11

Dec ‘11

platform design 3,5 months

Jan ‘12

Feb ‘12

prepare research 1,5 months

platform design

prepare research

research in India

Initiate platform Set name, target and statutes of the foundation and officially launch the non profit organization.

Design Design the next step in concrete action research for rural India together with the first partners.

Find local partners Find more local partners and entrepreneurs.

Shape platform Design the virtual and actual shape and concept of the foundation.

Prepare Indian visit Keep in contact with Indian partners, prepare material and local project.

3,5 months

1,5 months

Grow platform Keep in contact with the first partners and set up concrete actions of the platform.

Conceptualizing the platform and initializing an organization.

¤ 1000,-

Establish actual design.

¤ 2000,-


2 months

Design with users Design next light and information sh prototype with users.

Locally built prototypes Initiate partners to build new prototy Grow local energy network Together with local entrepreneurs implement the new prototypes. Document Record methodology and feedback visually and academically.

Action research, travel and local expenses (2 persons, 2 months).


Prototyping and tool materials for enabling first users to “design” and share light and information.


Visually and academic documenting of the process and results.


Mar ‘12

Apr ‘12

research in India 2 months

May ‘12

create platform 2 months


Jul ‘12

prepare symposium 1 month

create platform

prepare symposium

Process results Use the feedback for shaping and evolving the platform.

Organize Arrange topics, location, speakers and publicity for the symposium.

Build platform virtually Create website and visuals for connecting the partners.

Discussions Together with the participants of the symposium, the goal and vision of the platform can be discussed and altered.

2 months


Jun ‘12

Rural Spark symposium

1 month

Tangible platform Launch tangible form of the platform, for example a brainstorm room with touchables linked with the website.

Build virtual platform.

¤ 2000,-

Establish tanglible platform.

¤ 2000,-

6 July 2012

Launch platform Official launch of the platform presentating of the first results and plans. Inspiaring more parties to join.

Organizing the symposium.

¤ 2000,-





Bibliography Easterly, William (2006). The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. Penguin Press HC, The; ISBN 1594200378 Heist, Marcel van (2011). Creating Rural Energy. Eindhoven: Industrial Design Department of the Technical University of Eindhoven Mertens, Evan (2011). Lowering the Threshold for Access to Sustainable Energy Solutions: A Bottom-up Energy and Information Network Concept for Rural Indian Households in 2030. Eindhoven: Building Physics and Systems Department of the Technical University of Eindhoven


Lowering the Threshold for Access to Sustainable Energy Solutions Graduation Thesis Building Services Eindhoven University of Technology

Creating Rural Energy Graduation Thesis Industrial Design Eindhoven University of Technology

Evan Mertens, 2011

Marcel van Heist, 2011



Appendices Letter of recommendation by prof. ir. P.G.S. Rutten Letter of recommendation by dr. O. Tomico Letter of recommendation by ir. R. Busschers


Department of Industrial Design Designing Quality in Interaction

HG 2.59, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, NL

Universiteitsfonds Eindhoven (Ufe) Technische Universiteit Eindhoven Postbus 513 5600 MB Eindhoven

Den Dolech 2, 5612 AZ Eindhoven P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven The Netherlands Internal address: HG 2.59

Dear Jury of the TU/e 55th Anniversary Awards,

Subject th

Letter of recommendation 55 Anniversary Award for the work of Marcel van Heist and Evan Mertens Date

26 July 2011 Contact

O. Tomico

During his master graduation project, Marcel van Heist was able to position himself as a designer between academic research (theory) and the everyday reality of a complex culture (practice). Through design iterations he was able to concretize an abstract vision proposed by research into a working prototype fitting in the existing social structures. The results show an interesting example of how design can be used as a transformational agent. In this case to introduce bottomup distributed energy networks in rural India. His final master project is a good example on the design research done at ID TU/e (qualified with an excellent) and more specifically on the topic of coreflection in which I’m an expert on. This design approach considers the ethical implication of design and it goes beyond designing for (the third world) towards designing within (the third world), a design approach that questions the role of design in general. It pushes the design research paradigm further by moving the design lab to the field, enabling design to fit existing social structures instead of imposing them. For my research on co-reflection and for ID TU/e, his work will be interesting study material. It can inspire research and student projects to contribute in this field. Designing “in situ” (within the context) might lead to new methods and tools for designers. Therefore I highly recommend Marcel van Heist and Evan Mertens to continue this work with the support of the 55th anniversary award. With kind regards,

Dr. Oscar Tomico, Assistant Professor Designing Quality in Interaction

Rural Spark  
Rural Spark  

A TU/e 55th Anniversary Awards Application by Evan Mertens MSc & Marcel van Heist MSc Eindhoven University of Technology, July 2011