In a first of its kind to be held in Britain, Energy Systems Catapult ran a Fair Futures Bootcamp to better understand how innovation can have a real impact on fuel poverty in the UK – and along the way developed a free online tool, Lets Beta Fuel Poverty, which ‘scores’ innovations.
Fair Futures focuses on how innovation can be used to better understand the issues faced by vulnerable energy consumers and to identify the areas where commercial, governmental, community and household needs and motivations could be aligned to provide more effective policies, products and services.
Supported by Innovate UK, the Fair Futures Bootcamp aimed to harness the powers of collaborative working and creativity to develop ways of better understanding innovations that might help vulnerable consumerss.
The Challenge and Opportunity
Taking inspiration from some of the great hackathon examples we’ve seen by social start-ups and entrepreneurs, the Consumer Insight team at the Catapult organised a rapid explore, design, build and test event that took place across two days.
Attendees came from a mixture of backgrounds, sectors, disciplines and roles but were all working in some way within the energy sector, and are open to thinking about how the future for fuel poor households might be different.
Seeking to move away from the usual thinking about fuel poverty as just an ‘energy issue’, participants brought knowledge and experience in social housing, new entrant energy suppliers, consumer advocacy work, policy lobbying/campaigning, national support schemes, innovation and sustainability consultancy and academic work to help shape the conversation.
As a group, much of the discussion focused on the fact that so little, if any, of the effort in trying to alleviate fuel poverty is spent trying to learn how to tackle it more effectively. This is in stark contrast to most other areas of public spending, where some proportion of effort is devoted to continuous improvement. There was agreement across the board that this is holding back progress with further discussions planned for how to best tackle this.
A keynote address was delivered by Laura Sandys, previous chair of the European Movement UK and MP, who is now a business entrepreneur and policy innovator within the energy sector.
Embracing ‘fast to fail’ methodologies, the key aim of the two days was to create a prototype tool through which we could start to understand how innovation can have a real impact on fuel poverty in the UK.
Utilising user-centred design methods, we created a free online tool:
The tool stress-tests and ‘scores’ potential innovations on how they will impact consumers living with fuel poverty. The tool uses a collaboratively devised set of measures developed by experts from small and large energy suppliers, housing associations, consumer advocacy agencies, distribution network operators, academics, local government and fuel poverty charities.
The UK has a great opportunity to lead the world in developing innovative, empowering ways of tackling fuel poverty, whilst delivering the UK’s decarbonisation mission.
Attendees will now use the tool to stress-test innovations within their own settings and organisations, providing us with real-world analysis of its successes and limitations.
The Fair Futures boot camp provided a great platform upon which new collaborations, projects and partnerships can develop, whilst delivering key insights into what innovations, ideas and interests exist, and can therefore be built upon.