Areas of Advance Award 2018
​Chalmers researchers Sofia Börjesson, Holger Wallbaum, Ida Gremyr and Árni Halldórsson are receiving the Areas of Advance award for their multidisciplinary collaboration. Photo: Johan Bodell

Areas of Advance Award for research into future energy services

​Sustainability, digitalisation and service innovation in the energy sector are the ingredients of the collaborative project which is receiving the 2018 Areas of Advance Award. Chalmers researchers Árni Halldórsson, Holger Wallbaum, Ida Gremyr and Sofia Börjesson are receiving the award for their multidisciplinary collaboration.

Digitalisation is contributing to far-reaching changes in almost all sectors of society, which means that we can do things in different ways and do completely new things. At the same time, we must address the question – how?

Researchers from the departments of Technology Management and Economics, and Architecture and Civil Engineering are collaborating on the project “Energy Services: Processes for Innovation, Provision, and Use of Customer Feedback”.

“The energy sector faces a challenge as on the one hand it needs to obtain a good return on its sales of renewable energy and from its capabilities and technology, while on the other also contributing to the customer’s energy efficiency. We are therefore looking at new ways of designing services which provide added value for customers, promoting the transition to sustainable energy consumption and guaranteeing steadyrevenue streams”, says project manager Halldórsson.

Customers become key players
Customers and end-users can become key players in the energy company’s ecosystem and contribute to continued energy efficiency.

“New digital technology allows us to measure performance, using sensors for example, gather data and analyse phenomena more extensively than in the past. This gives us the opportunity to design new innovative services,” says Gremyr.

Researchers working on the project have started assessing processes and needs throughout the chain from energy supplier, property owner/manager to customer, to learn key lessons which will form the basis of future energy services.

“The idea is that the design of the services can contribute to a more sustainable society by influencing customer behaviour, for example. It is also interesting to analyse the conditions required for new types of services to become established,” Wallbaum says.

A collaborative research approach
The project is a pilot study which was made possible through seed funding provided by the Energy Area of Advance and the work is being undertaken in close collaboration with Göteborg Energi.

“Here we have a great opportunity to get involved with Göteborg Energi and understand their perspective, the same goes for the customer and end-user side, and from there we try to conceptualise the service development. We don’t yet know where this will take us, there is no final template so we are navigating from our different perspectives,” Börjesson says.

“What is clear is that this is a key issue. Everyone knows this work has to be done but just what is needed is complex. It affects different areas of expertise, systems, people, business models and technologies,” Gremyr says.

Research spotlighted in professional education
Future services will of course also create complexity for purchasing and procurement, something which Halldórsson has lectured on through Chalmers Professional Education. In other respects it can be seen that the service development area has not yet made much of an impact in the education provided at Chalmers.

“There are many new subject areas which have emerged and which do not yet form part of Chalmers’ courses. But there are already educational components where these can be included, such as in degree projects, or quite simply by shining the spotlight on our research in our teaching,” says Börjesson.

Applications in all industries
The researchers are already aware of opportunities for continued collaboration after they have completed their pilot study.
“The project we are conducting on sustainability and digitalisation can be applied to other contexts. This then opens many doors – in a number of different industries,” Halldórsson says.

They all agree that the Areas of Advance have an important role to play in promoting multidisciplinary collaboration at Chalmers. This in turn lays the foundations for an exchange of expertise and renewal.
“New contacts can also reduce the thresholds for collaboration in our infrastructures, where you might not always realise that you are in demand,” says Wallbaum.

“And seed funding from the Area of Advance gives the slight nudge which makes collaboration happen,” Börjesson says.


Award winners
Sofia Börjesson, Professor, Technology Management and Economics. She conducts research into the organisation and management of innovation in established organisations and into the prerequisites for innovation.

Ida Gremyr, Professor, Technology Management and Economics. She conducts research into quality management and service development, service innovation and processes for increased customer interaction.

Árni Halldórsson, Professor, Technology Management and Economics. He conducts research into service supply chains, customer-supplier relationships and energy efficiency.

Holger Wallbaum, Professor, Architecture and Civil Engineering. He conducts research on sustainability strategies for building stocks, energy-efficient renovation and smart infrastructures.



The Areas of Advance Award
Through the Areas of Advance Award, the leadership at Chalmers wants to reward people who have made significant contributions to interdisciplinary collaborations and who, in the spirit of the Areas of Advance, integrate research, education and utilisation. The award will be bestowed during the doctoral degree ceremony on 2 June 2018.
 
Text: Malin Ulfvarson
Photo: Johan Bodell

Published: Wed 09 May 2018. Modified: Mon 14 May 2018