Path to Net Zero: Innovation, Testing, and Real-World Impact

Follow our journey from funding to real-world testing in student accommodations, guided by the Design Council's user research.

Joanna Power & Marwan Patrick

7/10/20246 min read

Design Council

As part of the Net Zero Living Programme grant, the Design Council has been instrumental in guiding businesses like Lylo through key design methods for collecting user research. These workshops transported us back to our university days, reminiscing about the human factors module, where both Paramveer and I delved into the discipline of understanding how people interact with products, systems, and environments to optimize performance.

During these sessions, we explored a variety of user testing methods, each sparking thought-provoking ideas for our product testing:

Ethnographic Research

  • Observation: Designers observe users in their natural environments to understand their behaviours, interactions, and challenges.

  • Contextual Inquiry: Engaging with users in their environment, asking questions while observing their interactions with products or services.

User Journey Mapping

  • Journey Maps: Visual representations of the user’s experience with a product or service, highlighting key touchpoints, pain points, and opportunities for improvement.

  • Empathy Maps: Tools that help designers understand and visualize what users are thinking, feeling, doing, and saying throughout their interaction with a product.

Diary Studies

  • User Diaries: Asking users to keep diaries of their interactions with a product or service to gather insights into their long-term use and behaviour.

  • Self-reporting Tools: Utilizing apps or online platforms where users can regularly log their experiences and feedback.

Field Studies

  • Real-world Testing: Placing prototypes or products in real-life settings to observe how they perform and are used over time.

  • Environmental Scanning: Studying the physical and social context in which a product will be used to ensure it fits seamlessly into users’ lives.

Applying these tools to projects can be challenging due to constraints like budget and time. The Design Council introduced us to the effort versus outcome matrix, a valuable tool for planning and prioritizing user research activities by evaluating the trade-offs between the effort required and the potential benefits.

In addition to these informative sessions, we benefited from one-on-one mentorship with a Design Council representative. For Lylo, this has been Kathryn Woolf, an experienced service designer and digital strategist with over 20 years of experience working on digital projects and design programs to improve community health and wellbeing. Her guidance has been transformative, allowing us to rethink our user testing approach.

With Kathryn’s expertise, we have re-evaluated our user testing plan, incorporating stakeholder mapping exercises to enhance not just user interactions but the overall rollout of our product. This mentorship has empowered us to innovate and refine our strategies, ensuring our product meets the highest standards of usability and effectiveness.

Net Zero Living Grant

Big news from the UK government! They've set their sights on achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050—a bold move to combat climate change in line with the global goals of the Paris Agreement. This massive undertaking covers everything from energy and transportation to housing, industry, and finance.

Innovate UK, the government's innovation agency is leading the charge, spearheading efforts to propel the UK towards net zero. They've launched some serious initiatives to spark innovation, boost the economy, and slash carbon emissions. One standout is the Net Zero Living Programme—a hefty £60 million plan spread over three years. It's designed to help places and businesses across the UK speed up their shift to net zero.

Here's the exciting part: Innovate UK's User-Focused Products initiative. It's all about backing early-stage businesses like ours and supporting the development of net zero products that meet real market needs. We're thrilled to announce that Lylo is one of the lucky recipients of this grant. This means we're ready to kick things into high gear.

For us at Lylo, this grant opens a world of possibilities. We'll use a living lab to test our prototype unit and gather essential performance data. Picture it: a controlled environment where we can fine-tune our product while getting valuable feedback on how it works in student accommodations. This early-stage testing ensures our product hits the mark, meets user expectations, and moves us closer to a sustainable future.

Living Lab Utilisation

The main aim of the Net Zero Living Grant is for Lylo to test our recently completed minimal viable product (MVP) in a real-world environment, moving it from TRL5 to TRL6. The benefit of using a living lab for testing early-stage product innovations like Lylo's unit is that it provides a realistic environment where products can be tested under everyday conditions, yielding more relevant insights into performance and user interaction. This direct feedback loop enhances user-centred design by allowing for iterative improvements based on real user experiences and needs.

For Lylo, our relevant environment is testing in student accommodations with real students! Over the next five months, we are working with Anglia Ruskin University to have our unit tested by 15 students, each using it for a fortnight, so they can provide feedback on what it's like completing their washing with Lylo.

We're thrilled to introduce you to our dream team from Anglia Ruskin University. They will join us on our exciting journey of testing products specifically designed for students in a living lab environment.

First, we have Dr. Ahad Ramezanpour, our go-to guru in Computational Fluid Dynamics. With his expertise, we'll ensure that every aspect of our product functions flawlessly, optimizing performance to the max. Then there's Dr. Magdalena Zawisza, our resident academic psychologist. She's here to dive deep into how students think and feel about our product. Her insights will help us make sure our design not only works well but also hits the right notes psychologically. Last but not least, we have Sophie Pettit, an automotive engineering student who brings a fresh perspective from the student community. Sophie's hands-on experience and viewpoint as a student will be crucial in ensuring our product is user-friendly and practical in real-life student scenarios.

Together, this team brings a mix of technical know-how, psychological insight, and actual student experience to the table. It's all about creating a product that meets the technical standards and resonates with students personally. With their help, we're gearing up for a comprehensive testing phase in our living lab. We'll gather feedback, tweaking designs and ensuring that every detail—from functionality to user satisfaction—is nailed down perfectly.

We’ll be posting about our MVP unit, and the results of the living lab as we progress. We can’t wait to share more details with you, so make sure you follow us to keep up to date.

To learn more about the UK Governments plan for net zero check out the roadmap:

For more information about the net zero work carried out by Innovate UK you can check out their website:

For more information about the splendid work Kathryn does, you can check out her company page:

For more information about Ahad and the great work he has been doing you can check out the ARU page:

For more information about Magdalena and the clever work she has been doing you can check out the ARU page:

For more information on the work Anglia Ruskin is doing to support sustainability: