Photobioreactors (also known as PBRs — systems that cultivate micro-algae) are a technology with a vast potential: micro-algae can transform CO2 into oxygen; process waste into bioplastics and biofuel; create natural fertilizers, and more. PBRs can close circular economy loops and be of use for many commercial and productive fields.
ALOS is a company that has been involved in the micro-algae sector for several years, exploiting microalgal technologies to develop indoor air purifiers for both the B2B and B2C. The same company, however, is also exploring new avenues, such as using PBRs to mitigate the environmental impact of the distillation of aromatic herbs and transform waste into high-value byproducts.
How can ALOS maximize the sustainability of such productive processes? In this challenge, you will work with ALOS to explore new fields, and ultimately develop different market scenarios for applied micro-algae technology.
The challenge aims to find sustainability and green economy solutions using the technology of photobioreactors (PBRs). The students will try to solve the challenge by using techniques drawn from future studies.
Since PBRs are versatile technologies, learners will go through two divergent phases: on the first, learners will decide what field of application (commercial sector, or segment of industry) they want to explore for PBRs; on the second, learners will use scenarios to explore how their chosen application field could evolve in a medium-term future. In practice, the scenarios that students produce will be descriptions of hypothetical worlds where PBRs have different roles and prominences in the respective fields of application. Once learners decide on a scenario, they will close the challenge by proposing a concept for a product that ALOS could develop within that scenario.
The students will learn to assess the potential of a technology critically, and use tools of thought to experience a less classic way of doing entrepreneurship in the field of Innovation and Technology, orienting it to responsible innovation and sustainability.
Understanding general purpose technologies — by the end of the module, students will be able to roughly describe different applications for photobioreactors, and will have developed a deeper case study in one application field.
Applying basics of futures studies — by the end of the module, students will be able to apply (informally) futures studies techniques such scenarios and back-casting to the challenge proposed by the CP.
Envisioning technological developments — by the end of the module, students will be able to examine different potential futures in projects that leverage microalgae-powered technologies by using the futures studies techniques outlined above.