Alice and Angelica present their thesis.
“A well-written and easy-to-read master’s thesis with both scientific value and considerable practical application” is part of the citation for the thesis in the area of economic governance, organisation and innovation. Each Christer Gilén scholarship has a financial value of SEK 10,000 – with a great deal of honour – and will be awarded at a ceremony at LiU on 29 November.
“When we graduated, we were told that our work was impressive and that there was a scholarship that we could be nominated for. We didn’t think any more about it, but then we received a message on LinkedIn that we had won,” say Angelica and Alice, who are now working at companies in Stockholm and Gothenburg, respectively.
The thesis, Product Development of Electronic Devices for Improved Environmental Performance: Finding improvement opportunities using ecodesign tools and success factors, was written as a degree project in the mechanical engineering master’s programme during the spring term of 2022. Alice and Angelica investigated how the impact on the environmental of four products can be reduced, and looked at how the manufacturer can improve the sustainability of product development.
The company they looked at manufactures sensors and other electronic equipment used to reduce energy consumption in homes and other buildings. It is at the same time important not to neglect the environmental impact of the products themselves.
“The collaboration with the company was great, and we met our supervisors there at regular intervals. The work progressed smoothly. We could combine our knowledge and expertise with the needs of the company,” the scholars point out.
“We made sure that our suggestions were realistic and could be implemented reasonably quickly. And the company has decided to work further with several of them.”
Life-cycle analyses were carried out for the four products to identify which changes would give the greatest reduction in environmental impact (impact on the climate and acidification). The results differed for the different products: in two cases the greatest benefit came from extending the lifetime of the product, while in one case an integral sleep function was best. The greatest positive effect for the fourth product could be achieved by transferring production from Romania to Sweden.
Nine suggestions were made for how to improve sustainability in product development. One of the most important was to assess the value of ecodesign in collaboration with other stakeholders, and to determine the activities and resources needed for this, while another was to consider environmental aspects at the very beginning of product development.
Environmental work today is still to a large extent focused on following legislation and regulations. And it is often carried out late in the development process.
“We used different colours in our presentation, and there wasn’t much green when we described the current situation at the company. And this was something we had to think about – how tough we could be when meeting our supervisors. We tried to be both unambiguous and realistic,” says Alice.
Angelica adds: “Indeed. And one lesson we could draw is that the pathway to sustainability is a long one. Our suggestions are small steps on the way. It would not, for example, be realistic to suggest that the company start to use remanufacturing. In this case, it would have to reconfigure its business model completely. In fact, this is true of all manufacturers of this size.”
When working on the thesis, they have worked closely together and usually been in the same place. They know each other well, and have previously worked together on several projects. They have the same level of ambition and have pretty similar, but not identical, personalities.
“I’m probably more careful with details, not to say pedantic. But if I got hung up on small details, Alice was there to push things forward,” says Angelica.
Alice agrees: “Yes, that's right. So we complemented each other.”