The growing quest for energy efficiency has seen the invention of smart windows which double up as solar panels. The said windows are fitted with photovoltaic cells which are expertly angled to interact with light rays at an angle of 90O to allow maximum conversion of light energy into electrical energy. According to Tereza Pultarova, author of “More Than a View: Windows Double as Solar Panels”, the invention was preceded by the pursuit of “energy neutrality” in large commercial buildings which view high power costs as the principal driver of operational costs. This paper applies process model of innovation approach to the development of solar windows. Whereas the impetus is towards new models of product innovation, the process model provides the most practical and plausible for firms to remain competitive.
3.0 Process Model of Innovation
This is the first stage of the NPD process. Team members are encouraged at this stage to generate ideas which guarantee the greatest ROI, in addition to being scalable, affordable, and lean. Product developers should exercise latitude by considering multiple SWOTT analyses, both from within and without the organization to attain the foregoing conferments (Tidd and Beassant para 4). Multiple versions of the product should be encouraged through brainstorming sessions to accommodate wider design considerations.
3.2 Screening the Idea
The idea generation stage bombards the selection team with a spectrum of ideas, from the openly fanciful to the incisively practical (Tidd and Beassant para 9). A clear criterion for adoption and dropping of ideas should be adhered to at this stage.
3.3 Testing the Concept
This stage, not to be confused with test marketing, is the infusion of design standards, patent considerations, and legal requirements into the NPD process (Tidd and Beassant para 12). Concept testing also involves determination of the right market, the right advertizing, and the expected results.
3.4 PESTLE Analysis (MACRO Environment)
An assessment of prospective risks to the solar window technology is conducted using the Political, Economic, Social, and Technological, Legal, and Environmental (PESTLE) approach.
The future of solar windows, as with all technologies, can be potentially impacted by the prevailing political environment. Political establishment invariably exercise control over solar energy supply through policies. Incidentally, solar energy installation and use was escalated through energy policy shifts which saw 46.9% rise in solar technology use from 15,598 in 2008 to 22928.9 in 2009 (Solangi, Islam, Saidur, Rahim, and Fayaz 2156). Similarly, Ruziwa, identifies important concomitants of a political system such as tax policy, local employment and labor laws, trade regulations, and tariffs which impact investment and divestment in energy generation (para 4). For instance the FIT policy, currently being implemented in several countries across the globe awards longer term contracts to companies investing in solar power (Solangi et al. 2158). The extended period enables such companies to recoup their investments as they charge lower per-kWh prices compared to other energy service providers. Similarly, the RPS compliant countries require companies to increase energy production from renewable sources such as solar, geothermal, and biomass (Solangi et al. 2160).
Economic condition of any country such as its GDP, GNP, PPP, monetary policy, rate of exchange, unemployment rate, and cost of living affect a country’s capacity to adopt new technology (Ruziwa para 5). Inferentially, LEDC countries are less likely to attract investors to implement solar window technology.
Social permutations in the markets such as cultural practices, health considerations, rate of population growth, demographics, and gender roles tend to affect uptake of technology. Ruziwa notes that culturally conservative societies tend to show general reluctance to effect wide-ranging energy sector reforms which may necessitate adoption of solar windows technology (para 4).
The prevailing technological environment may hamper uptake of the smart window technology in target markets. Accordingly, Ruziwa affirms the proclivity for firms in remote areas, where uptake of technology is low, and lacking technical expertise to reject the smart technology (para 6). Additionally, competing technologies such as AC generators and coal may hinder penetration of solar technology in markets whose populations are less concerned with environmental degradation.
The dynamics of legal systems across the world as instituted by government agencies affect implementation of solar energy systems. For instance, in Europe, the Renewable Energy Directives of 2001, and its amended version of 2009, have predetermined targets that bind investors to the highest standards of clean and affordable solar energy (Kolios and Read 5027; Nielsen et al 1560).
Various environmental ratifications and obligations entered into by countries often dictate the extent to which they implement energy policies. Specifically, in several countries, for instance, investing companies are required to obtain pre-implementation reports such as Environmental Impact Assessment reports and Strategic Environmental Assessments (Ruziwa para 5). Additionally, Kuby Renewable Energy Limited points that environmental audit must be conducted during implementation (para 3). In developed countries such as the United Kingdom, involvement by members of the public through public participation as well as charities may delay implementation of solar projects. Further, Kuby Renewable Energy Limited avers that consideration of the major components of a functioning solar window shows that solar energy is not entirely clean. First, the raw material used in the manufacture of solar windows is silicon, whose raw material must be mined (para 4). Secondly, materials used in the PV cell include aluminum or phosphorus, copper or silver, all of which are mined with detrimental impacts on the environment. Finally, Kuby Renewable Energy Limited points to the carbon footprint associated with manufacture of solar windows as being environmentally unfriendly (para 6).
3.5 Porters Five Forces
Porters five forces framework is an analytical tool for evaluating an organization’s capacity to cope with competition within the business environment. According to Dobbs, Porter’s five forces analysis provides business analysts, managers, and industry players with a robust framework for assessing business’ competitive advantage (35). Fundamental pillars of the five forces framework (as depicted in figure 1 below) are subsequently discussed:
3.5.1Threat of New Entrants
When demand for a good or service outstrips supply, the few actors in the industry will reap maximum profits unless new entrants come on board. Consequently, the solar window technology must take practical steps to mitigate the impending influx of new technologies, as may be occasioned by factors in the immediate microenvironment (Dobbs 36). Such factors include “entry restrictions” such as patents, capital, economies of scale, and government policies.
3.5.2Threat of Substitutes
Availability of goods, services, and technologies which customers may turn to is a potent threat to the future of the solar window technology. For instance, Dobbs predicts the possibility of cheaper, yet functionally similar windows – without PV cells – in the market to drive solar window manufacturers out of business (38).
3.5.3 Bargaining Power of Customers
Availability of substitutes has the net effect of transferring power from the firm to the customers. In contemporary business environment, business managers and analysts must “reduce” the buyer’s power of choice through implementation of innovative reward schemes for loyal customers (Dobbs 40). The solar window technology can be shielded from “empowered” customers by through provision of high quality windows, and irresistible post-purchase technological and customer care support.
3.5.4Bargaining Power of Suppliers
For firms which rely on raw materials to manufacture goods for sale, reduction in supply of such important commodities may adversely affect business’ profitability. Further, Dobbs avers that suppliers may gain more power through strong labor unions, increased demand for products, increased firm: supplier concentration ratio among factors (41). Solar window should limit suppliers’ power by sourcing for many suppliers of raw materials.
3.5.5 Rivalry among Competitors
In order to maintain competitive advantage, the smart window technology should keep pace with rival firms’ technological advantages to limit the customers’ power of choice. Dobbs points that limitations of customers’ choice effectively diminishes competitors’ threat (42).
Figure 1. Fundamental pillars of Porters five forces framework.
3.6 SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis is an assessment of the firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (Sindhu, Nehra and Luthra 1144)
Many countries have access to several sunny days, hence solar window users are assured of uninterrupted power supply.
Solar window technology will lead to significantly reduced power bills, hence lowering operational costs and maximizing profits (Sindhu, Nehra and Luthra 1145)
Solar technology can be installed in any location, in homes and commercial buildings
Solar energy provides clean energy, as they do not emit green house gases such as CO2, NO2 and SO2 (Sindhu, Nehra and Luthra 1145; Tabi, Hille and Wüstenhagen 212).
Solar windows are expensive relative to normal windows which share the same optical properties
Being weather dependent, countries in snowy and Polar Regions may not appreciate the technology (Sindhu, Nehra and Luthra 1146).
The average installation cost of solar is high, currently standing at $7000-$9000 per kilowatt compared to HEP which averages $4000 per kilowatt. Additionally, the cost of storage of the solar power is relatively high, as they rely on expensive rechargeable batteries to store the power (Abdul and Mohamed 2615).
Solar windows require routine maintenance which attracts additional costs.
Technical capacity may be inaccessible in far-flung areas
Global support for green technologies through policy formulations such as FIT and RPS (Abdul and Mohamed 2616)
Environmental impact of solar still minimal compared to traditional sources such as fossil and biomass (Tabi, Hille and Wüstenhagen 212).
Competition from fossil fuels, currently bogged by erratic supply and fluctuating oil prices, remains weak; hence, solar windows are a welcome alternative (Mondal, Kamp and Pachova 4630).
Increased awareness on eco-friendly energy sources and the threat of global warming have seen local populations protest against coal and nuclear plants as is common in Tamil Nadu, India (Abdul and Mohamed 2618).
Slow adoption of solar technology in many parts of the world (Negro, Alkemade and Hekkert 3840)
Concerns as to whether solar windows should be classified as green energy given the environmental impact of mining the raw materials for its manufacture (Abdul and Mohamed 2617). Instructively, solar windows are designed with PV cells, which are manufactured from quartz, in a process which releases harmful substances in the air.
3.6.5 Segmentation Profile
A segmentation profile provides an innovative method of identifying the target market, so as to align customer needs with the technical, operational, and financial capacity of the solar window technology firm (Coita 825). Since solar window is temperature dependent, the market is segmented according to geographical and demographic criteria.
Table 1: Segmentation profile for solar window market
Region Africa Indian subcontinent South America Caribbean
Climate Mostly tropical, sunlight all year long Tropical rainy weather all year long Hot and Wet, Hot and Dry in some areas Tropical
Population size 800 million 1,200 million 425 million 39 million
No. of public and private firms 4600 12000 7000 200
Percentage earnings above 150, 000 pa 10% 32% 41% 31%
From the analysis in table 1 above, the solar window technology can best serve Indian, African, South American, and Caribbean markets with a combined population of 2.5 billion, about 35% of the world population, and about 24, 000 firms capable of adopting solar technology.
The target market is carved up into various into domestic and commercial customers.
3.7 4 Ps of Innovation
The marketing mix concept, which has been in use for over half a century identifies four considerations in marketing new products. From the marketing point of view, the 4 Ps are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. According to Du Preez, Louw and Essmann (12) application of the 4Ps will demand that the solar windows will have to be delivered to the right place (target customers), at the right price, and at the right time
High quality PV cells will be produced from high quality silicon, obtained from the best quartz preferably from Australia to guarantee the highest quality product.
The right price is obtained from the segmentation profile which brings important pricing considerations such as demographics, socioeconomics, and behavioral factors into play.
An efficient distribution network is necessary in target markets for timely delivery of solar windows
An aggressive advertising strategy aimed at educating and informing the customer on long term cost-reduction benefits of the solar window technology is a necessary step in the marketing matrix (Harvard Business Review para 4). In the initial stages, mainstream media may be employed to feature and advertize the new technology. However, VanLooy suggests that companies should leverage on the social media platforms to maintain contact with customers (370).
3.8 Testing the Concept
Before actual introduction of the solar windows it is important to conduct surveys to predict the customers’ response to the new product. To achieve this, high quality questionnaires are employed so as to obtain feedback on the needs of the potential customer.
Sample questionnaire (tick appropriately)
(i) Solar window is a new invention that can reduce your electricity bills per annum by half.
How would you gauge your knowledge of solar window technology?
– Very knowledgeable
– Have little knowledge
– Don’t know
(ii) Would you consider installing solar windows? (Give reasons for your answer in the space below)
(iii) What specific event jolted you into thinking of installing solar windows? (tick appropriately)
(iv) Would you like any clarifications regarding solar window technology?
FOR COMMERCIAL RESIDENTIAL OWNERS
(v) List the kind of business you are engaged in
(vi) Considering your recent electricity bills, how much electricity do you consume monthly?
(vii) Would you consider your electricity bill as consistent?
(viii) What machines utilize most power?
(ix) Considering the solar windows innovation, and its attendant benefits such as significantly reduced power bills, would you consider adopting it and why?
(x) What financing facility would you consider for adopting (tick appropriately)
– Loan financing
– Power purchase plan
– Not sure
(xi) What procurement concerns would you like to be assisted with?
3.9 Business Analytics
This step involves the adoption of big data technologies to facilitate monitoring and evaluation of the NPD process. It is essential at this stage to institute measurable goals for each stage of production (LeValle, Hopkins, Lesser, Shockley and Kruschwitz 4). Implementation of Business Analytics, which typically include application of data mining, and statistical software to aid decision making, will help track metrics such as duration of each stage of production, quality of manufactured products, sales, and customers’ response to products (Dinçer 3770; Trkman, McCormack, De Oliveira and Ladeira 325) .
4.0 Beta/ Marketability Tests
The product beta test and the product market test are two vital methods for evaluating a product’s “real world usage”. Solar windows can use the feedback to address usage difficulties. Beta testing
Beta testing is the production of products for actual use by customers. Consequently, LeValle et. al identify the aim of beta testing as to guide production of “beta versions” of the initial product (3). The solar panels should be taken through beta testing by following a detailed process which involves setting clear goals through a workable plan. A meticulous plan then gives way to selection of the right test group. The products, which have to be as close as possible to the intended quality, are then distributed (LeValle et al. 9). Collection and evaluation of feedback are then carried out, after which a conclusion is made on the areas to improve.
5.0 Marketability Test
Marketability testing is usually conducted to refine the pre-launch plan in cases where beta tests are inconclusive (LeValle et al 10). Therefore, market testing will enable product manufacturers to obtain objective feedback on the product.
6.0 Technicalities and Product Development
This step entails assessment of technical aspects of the solar windows to determine if they can be improved without adjusting the post-beta product. At this stage, the production department prepares to manufacture the product as the marketing department readies for distribution (Tidd and Beassant para 8). Additionally, technical specifications are provided for machining.
7.0 Implementation and Commercialization
At this stage, the product is in the market and technical support is being extended to consumers. Tidd and Beassant posits that an efficient distribution network is essential so as not to allow competition the leeway to fill the supply void (para 10). It may be necessary to employ big data technology to micro-target individual customers.
8.0 Post-Launch Review and Perfect Pricing
A review of the new product development process is conducted at this stage to assess efficiency as a basis of continual improvement (Tidd and Beassant para 11). Discussions at this stage also involve determination of whether to retain the introductory price or fix a new one based on response in the market.
9.0 Conclusion and Recommendations
The foregoing discussion traces the NPD process for the solar window, using the process model of innovation. This model is credited with linking rudimentary aspects of product innovation with the most sophisticated aspects such as business analytics to provide a broad, robust, and implementable path to innovation. Thus, the resultant niche may as well see the process model guide innovation into the foreseeable future.
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