04.10.2019 | Sometimes an unusual setting is enough to generate fresh ideas

"Think inside the box"

Normally it’s “think outside the box”, but at the InCube Challenge they literally had to think inside the box. Five students have together with experts from Axpo dealed with the following question for four days: “How can we fight wasting energy in cities?” Their workplace: a glass cube in the middle of Zurich.

As part of the InCube Challenge organized by ETH, Axpo was given the opportunity to work on a task together with students from ETH and MIT for four days as a partner.

Advantage for the students: They were able to use various methods to generate ideas right through to implementation and at the same time had direct contact with experts from the business.

Advantage for Axpo: A well-known topic could be highlighted once again from a completely different side. New ideas were combined with expert knowledge.

"I don't know who has profited most from the project. We or the students. It was incredibly exciting to see what happens when you combine expertise with new ideas and get results in the shortest possible time."
Martine Graziano, Head Digital Transformation & Innovation
Using design thinking methods

Various working methods have helped the students to achieve good results as quickly as possible. One of the most important was Design Thinking. 

Thursday: The students get an introduction to the topic and the energy world of Axpo

Friday morning: Deep dive. In various interview sessions (live and via digital channels) the students peppered the Axpo experts with pre-defined questions in order to concretize the problem.

Friday afternoon: First interviews with passers-by bring a view from the outside on the problem. It quickly becomes clear that many people are not even aware of how much energy we consume in everyday life.

Saturday morning: During the night, the students made various assumptions about what could be the background to the problem of "wasting energy". These are checked and substantiated with passers-by on site

Saturday afternoon: Only when the students are quite sure that they have really understood the actual problem does the formulation of various solution ideas begin.

Sunday: The ideas get concretized, adapted or rejected. This is always due to feedback from passers-by and the social media community.

The final idea is here and must now be worked out for the presentation in the evening.

The outcome

One of the main problems with energy waste is the fact that many people are not even aware of where energy is needed and how much energy is consumed directly or indirectly. Therefore, the students developed the app and browser extension "Empact". Empact makes visible how much energy was needed to put a product on the shelf - products that we buy and consume every day. The app was presented to a jury on 30. September. Axpo's project was competing against other projects by Huawei, Hilti and PMI. Even though "Empact" narrowly slipped past first place, in the end everyone is a winner. Both the students and their colleagues at Axpo learned a lot during the four days of close cooperation... with a lot of commitment, full of energy and joy.  

You can see a review of the project in this excerpt of our Instagram Stories. The whole story can be found on the Axpo Instagram channel under Highlights.

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