The successful solutions event Pop!Tech* is taking their work to a new level. Their latest project is Pop!Tech Labs, which will bring together a group of experts – scientists, academics, corporate leaders and policymakers – to embark on a “year-long innovation journey.” The gathered group will focus on an issue around a specific domain, and will release any inventions under an open license.
For their first lab, they will be teaming up with Nike to search for low-impact materials. The spotlight will be on closed-loop production, which takes resources from finished (or end of life) products and uses them to create new goods. Their goal is to examine the scientific, business, policy and industry contexts surrounding closed-loop product development.
Closed-loop production has the ability to make a serious impact, and it's easy to recognize that using new resources less often means less environmental impact. But is less harm good enough? In other words, are "green' shoes to traditional trainers as hybrid cars are to sedans? Can rampant consumerism and closed-loop production exist simultaneously? Can we have a system that demands both escalation and sustainability?
Regardless of these doubts, the opportunity for the Pop!Tech Labs team to do something truly “worldchanging” is there. And creating more efficiently produced shoes, with zero waste in mind, is an amazing goal. Perhaps the lab experiment will give Nike the chance to offer consumers a more durable product than what is currently available. But how will a longer lasting shoe be in the long-term interest of a shoe company? It won’t be, at least in the conventional ideas of interest. But in a world with finite resources, companies will have to re-evaluate their interests. If Nike is able to be a forerunner in closed-loop production, they just might help start a product revolution.
We're eager to see the kinds of products that might arise from this project. If the players can step up to the plate and do this right, we might witness a real transformation in product development.
*(Full disclosure: Alex has spoken at Pop!Tech twice and Andrew Zolli is a former WC board member.)
Photo Credit: Incase Designs via Flickr, Creative Commons License
I think this is a great first step, but does this "closed loop" include manufacturing ethics or is it limited to the materials?