Participants in the EADA Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation Valentina Quiroga (Bolivia), Teresa Vaz (Portugal) and José Ramón Benítez (Puerto Rico) based their final master’s project on a real business proposal. The challenge lay in bringing technology developed by the spin off Mosaic to market. This technology, which belongs to the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, enables the installation of rooftop urban gardens and integrated greenhouses on top of public and commercial buildings.
Mosaic has developed an innovative system of rooftop hydrophonic agriculture which promotes local agriculture as well as being environmentally sound and sustainable. As Teresa explains, “hydrophonics is a method of growing plants without the use of soil. It also minimises water consumption through its use of mineral nutrient solutions.” José Ramón adds that, “it is an innovative cultivation technique on an urban scale which saves on resources.”
According to Valentina, “this project was interesting because it is an excellent example of a circular economy. It is a system which makes the most of local resources, guarantees the re-use of products, supports the use of local materials and has a low environmental impact. The system captures rainwater, sunlight and residual energy from buildings is reused in the rooftop integrated greenhouses, which is one of the most unused spaces in today’s cities.” José Ramón also notes how “it is also an innovative project in social inclusion. These urban gardens can be used for horticultural therapy and growing food for disadvantaged communities. In this way, it achieves the triple bottom line in social, environmental and financial impact.”
Design Thinking for reinventing products and processes
The members of Mosaic chose an innovative and sustainable perspective to bring their technology to the right market or industry. To this end, the participants in the EADA Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation opted to collaborate with them by using the Design Thinking methodology which enables the creation and reinvention of products, services, processes or business models using five different phases.
The first phase is about empathising with the user in order to uncover hidden patterns, unmanifested desires and hidden needs. Valentina explains that “for their project they interviewed around twenty potential consumers of their product and then created an empathy map with all their comments.” Teresa adds that, “We just had conversations with them. It was more like an ethnographic exploration than a typical interview.”
The second phase is based around defining and creating a Point Of View (POV). For this phase, the team gained clues from how the user views the problem and then used these clues to start the creative process. The next step was to generate ideas. “We spent hours identifying possible solutions and selecting the most promising ones,” explains José Ramón.
The process then moves on to the prototyping and testing phases with real users. “The big advantage of Design Thinking is that it allowed us to see whether our proposals adapted to the expectations of the users and answered their real needs. Instead of doing the typical market research, we explored the market from a human-centred perspective.