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Global Innovation Design (MA/MSc)

Alasdair Grant

Alasdair is a designer with a physics degree and an ambition to catalyse the transition to net-zero.


MA/MSc Global Innovation Design, Royal College of Art & Imperial College London

BA Physics, First Class Honours, University of Oxford

Alasdair Grant-statement

Coming into GID straight from a physics degree, I have used the past two years to explore design through a wide variety of projects. 

Linking many of these are a hunt for ideas that will play a role in preventing a climate crisis; ideas that have clear and scalable impact on metrics like reduction in carbon emissions. Crucially we need to focus on how we generate and use energy. 

I am often driven by scepticism towards purported idealistic solutions that fail to address the complex nature of environmental impact. I believe much of the technology we need to prevent a climate crisis already exists, such as nuclear power and train travel, and we must focus on how to utilise these tools more widely.

Some of my projects have examined what circular design for household products would really look like; how we might improve perceptions of nuclear power; and how machine learning can inform consumers what might lie in the supply chains of products.

eDAP: Enabling Greener Transport, media item 2
eDAP: Enabling Greener Transport, media item 3
eDAP: Enabling Greener Transport, media item 4
eDAP: Enabling Greener Transport, media item 5

As the UK transitions to electric vehicles (EVs), local authorities will soon have a statutory responsibility to plan the local roll-out of publicly accessible EV chargepoints. For the 10 million drivers without private driveways who will be dependent on public charging infrastructure it is particularly vital local authorities get this right.

Yet few local authorities currently have the capability to plan effectively; with less than 15% having any dedicated charging infrastructure personnel. The challenge is complicated by the variety of local contexts and the inherent uncertainty of future behavioural needs and technological developments.

eDAP is a digital tool that helps local authorities plan their chargepoint roll-out and dynamically adapt to changing contexts to ensure resources are used most effectively by estimating:

  • Hyper-local future chargepoint demand
  • Responding to current user experience
  • Aligning with wider policy objectives.

Resident engagement, such as sharing charging behaviour data through an in-car app, both helps eDAP function efficiently as well as creating trust that the charging infrastructure residents need will be there.

The prototype shown here is a wireframe of the user interface that a local authority planner would use to demonstrate the basic functionality. The algorithm underpinning eDAP is currently under development.

GreenLandlord — Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for all rental property in Scotland need to reach a 'band C' by 2028. But EPCs are not the right tool for the job - for instance they often favour fossil fuel consumption over renewably generated electricity.
Data Collection: Environment Sensors — An array of sensors are installed around the house to create continuous measurements of temperature and humidity. This will allow us to develop an accurate model of the thermal and moisture flows of the house and the efficacy of upgrades.
Data Collection: Lidar 3D Scan — A 3D lidar scan will be conducted by the assessor. This can help give more accurate reccomendations and deeper insight into the qualities of the particular house, making it simpler to obtain quotes from contractors when considering upgrades.
Making Decisions: Visualising Upgrades — GreenLandlord's highly visual and tailored interface helps homeowners understand what options are available and the impacts they will have.

GreenLandlord is a tool for landlords to choose property improvements that maximise environmental and economic benefit whilst adhering to the latest regulation.

Problem: As the UK transitions to net-zero emissions, it has been decided that all rental property will have to have a high enough Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Landlords will need to spend billions of pounds in the next few years to meet these obligations. Yet the EPC is a fundamentally flawed tool, that was not designed to be used for this environmental purpose, and often favours fossil fuel consumption over clean electric heating. The outcome is a waste of capital expenditure, confused and frustrated landlords, and potentially little gain for tenants, governments and the environment.

Method: Our team travelled to a rural part of North-East Scotland to better understand how this nationwide legislation was impacting individual situations. We interviewed key stakeholders (landlords, tenants, EPC assessors, and technical experts) involved with affordable let-property in the area - all of whom expressed enthusiasm for measures to protect the environment. Traditional stone houses in remote locations became a focus of our research, exemplar of the failure of EPCs to adapt to difficult challenges posed by certain properties. 

Proposal: GreenLandlord simplifies the transition process for landlords and gives real-world meaning to energy ratings. In collaboration with the Scottish Government, we take advantage of smart infrastructure and visual data analytics to help landlords find the upgrades that are right for the unique challenges posed by their properties while maximizing environmental impact and minimising cost.

Learn more about GreenLandlord on our interactive demo website here.

In colloboration with:

Ahad Mahmood

Arnau Donate

Takeu Clip: Controlling Our Sense Of Smell, media item 1
Takeu Clip: Controlling Our Sense Of Smell, media item 2
Takeu Clip: How does it work?
Takeu Clip: How might we use it?

The Takeu Clip is a part-implant part-wearable designed to push the boundaries of our sense of smell.

It introduces the ability to control your sense of smell through an implanted odour sensor and an olfactory nerve stimulator. The external, removable part of the device, called the Clip, provides battery power and connection to computation, and can take several forms.

Most suitable for those suffering from loss of smell due to the invasive nature of the device, the technical function is based on ground-breaking research conducted by Takeuchi Biohybrid Systems Laboratory and others, albeit with optimistic hopes for continued success in the years to come.

How do you think such a device would change our lives?

In collaboration with:

DLX Design Lab (University of Tokyo)

Takeuchi Biohybrid Systems Laboratory (University of Tokyo)

Maria Garaeva (Animator)

Essay: Perceptions of Nuclear Power, media item 1
Launch Project

Nuclear power is a vital tool in the fight to prevent a climate crisis - yet public perception can be so negative towards it. In this essay I questioned how might we change these perceptions. I offer no easy answers to this problem, but hope the points raise help us move in the right directon. Read the essay here.

Meet Fido - The Trainable Robot Dog — During the height of a lockdown, far from any studio, we were given a simple brief: build a robot with human interaction. Here's what I came up with
Canary: Making The Invisible Visible. — Canary allows any window to display hidden, but health critical, information about outside air quality and ultra-violet indices. In colloboration with Zehan Bao & Xiaoyi Du from Innovation Design Engineering and Johannes Schmidt from the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.
Uncover Slavery Browser Extension — Uncover is a browser extension that reveals how much slavery contributed to products we look at online, and suggests better alternatives. It uses machine learning t
Uncover Slavery Browser Extension — Uncover is a browser extension that reveals how much slavery contributed to products we look at online, and suggests better alternatives. It uses machine learning to compare details displayed on a product page to pre-existing models of where slavery lies in different supply chains. In colloboration with Linda Yilin Wen.

Over the course of my masters I have worked on over a dozen projects. Here is a handful to illustrate the breadth of the course and what we've been able to delve into.

Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851

I am extraordionarily grateful to the Commission for their support through an Industrial Design Studentship.