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Modular smartphones have the potential both to reflect technical progress through upgrades and to meet changing consumer needs. This enables a longer service life, which reduces the number of devices and their environmental impact. In order to develop the positive potential of modular design and minimize undesirable consequences, "MoDeSt" develops technical, social and economic pre-conditions and solutions for modular concepts.

Extended use-time

According to Bitkom, at least 57 million people in Germany use a smartphone in 2019. The current average service life is only two years. Smartphones contain a variety of valuable metals, but also conflict resources. Most of the environmental impact is caused by the production of smartphones.

In addition to acceptance and interest, modular smartphones also require specific user skills, such as knowledge about repair options. This enables them to absorb technical innovations through upgrades, which pave the way to longer use-times. In order to exploit the positive potential of modular design and minimise negative effects such as increased consumption, the "MoDeSt" project is investigating the technical, social and economic prerequisites for modular concepts and developing solutions for circular and socio-ecologically sound modular technologies.

 

Holistic approach

The innovative project involves a broad, transdisciplinary consortium. The integration of research and practice as well as technical and social science competences form the basis for a holistic approach to the research task.

The project is split into five work packages that are closely interlinked. First, conventional and modular smartphones as well as concepts are investigated and evaluated in the technical analysis with regard to various aspects of a circular economy. In the next step, life cycle assessments will carried out which, by means of scenario building, depict different usage, repair and disposal practices and evaluate them with regard to material and resource efficiency. Scenario building closely takes up the findings of other work packages. Thus, user expectations and practices are investigated qualitatively and quantitatively. Existing business models for modular products are analysed and new approaches are developed. For this purpose, an open innovation space for actors from practice and research is created in Living-Labs.

The modular approach will be further developed on the basis of these joint findings on environmental, usage and business model-related issues. Concrete technical revisions as well as the development of general eco-design criteria for modular smartphones are aimed at.

 

Involved partners and results

The transdisciplinary consortium comprises three scientific partners, Fraunhofer IZM, TU Berlin and the CSM of Leuphana University, as well as two industrial partners, SHIFT GmbH and AfB gGmbH.

The results of the project will be used to increase the distribution of modular devices on the market. They can serve manufacturers of smartphones as important development indicators. The results of the business model design can be used by manufacturers, sales partners and circular service providers to implement economic potentials of modularisation strategies and thus provide impulses for a longer service life. The results can be adapted to other product groups within the circular economy. The methods applied can provide important impulses for participatory market research in the technology/ICT sector and promote the development of integrative circular economy strategies. Within the framework of scientific publications, the results are made available for the further development of the discourse on the transition to an integrative circular economy.

 


Publications

Project sheet - in German (August 2019)
The project sheet provides a clear overview of the research project.

 

Contributions to the ReziProK Kick-off event in December 2019

Poster - in German (December 2019)

Presentation - in German (December 2019)