First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship
First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship

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First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship

4.1 Invention, design, innovation and (social) entrepreneurship

In the following activity, you will watch a video about a social enterprise and use this to review some of the themes you have studied in this course.

Activity 9

Timing: Allow about 1 hour 30 minutes for this activity
  1. Watch this video about a solar light promoted by the social venture ‘Liter of Light’ (n.b. The word ‘Liter’ in this organisation’s title is the US spelling of ‘litre’). The video lasts about four minutes.
Download this video clip.Video player: b205_2016j_vid003-320x176.mp4
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I am Ahmed [INAUDIBLE] and I’m in the Liter of Light as a volunteer, to be able to reach each and every home, to educate people. At the same time, help in saving on electricity costs and teach them alternative sources of energy to help them to stop depending on commercial electricity.
It is possible to do this without being an electronics engineer, without being a technician, but just simple, basic knowledge in electronics. Only two per cent of the Filipinos know about alternative sources of energy, such as solar.
What has Liter of Light done to your household?
We are able to save up on electricity. That’s the only thing we use during the day.
It’s a really bright light, especially when the sun is out.
A lot of people have become fond of this invention because they save up a lot. They don’t even need to turn it off.
We heard the news people will teach us about solar power and it got us interested because it’s really one thing we need. That’s why we came.
Let’s start with the bottle, where the light passes through. But even more important is what it can do during night time.
The revisions we made for the standard solar bulb, because it’s useful in just the morning. When the sun is out and the night comes, it is rendered useless to the families.
What we have here, we designed a simple circuit. When night comes the bulb is triggered to light up. We made the circuit available and easy to understand for everybody.
So this is our older bottle. Where we added a bulb. It shuts off during the day when the sun is out and during the night, it automatically turns on.
Theoretically speaking, with the one watt powered light it can light up a 15 square meter room by itself. It means with this light alone you are able to read.
This is a big thing for us, who live in far flung areas. I’m excited to spread the news among the women here. It is also something we can make a living out of in the tough times.
We will open source all this to help.
Not only for the household but as a means of livelihood. This is Liter of light. A fix for the day time but an even better solution at night.
It is very bright.
End transcript
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  1. Consider how the video illustrates some of the themes discussed in this course, and in particular:
    • a.the differences between the terms: discovery, invention, design and innovation - and how they are related to one another in practice
    • b.the different types of entrepreneur, including any distinctive features of social entrepreneurs
    • c.the connections between entrepreneurial activity and innovation.

Make your own notes below, responding to these questions and adding any other reflections on what you have discovered during the course.

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The Liter of Light case illustrates many of the themes we have been discussing this short course on innovation and entrepreneruship. You can find out more about the invention of the solar light online by visiting the organisation’s website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] or by conducting your own web search. There are also some interesting videos online, showing how to assemble a solar light, which highlight various design issues (e.g. how to make the roof watertight and how to provide light at night by extending the basic ‘bottle’ design).

The rapid spread of this invention to other countries, and enrolling local people to produce and distribute the lights, can be seen as representing types of technological innovation and social innovation. There is also evidence that the activity of social entrepreneurs such as the Liter of Light founder, Illac Diaz, has helped to drive these innovations into new areas.

Lastly, did you see any evidence of discovery in this story? It appears that in 2002 a Brazilian engineer named Alfred Moser came up with the idea of using a plastic bottle filled with water to refract sunlight and provide alternative lighting during the country’s frequent power failures. A few years later, Illac Diaz founded ‘MyShelter Foundation’ to provide affordable housing in the Philippines using recycled materials. The people at MyShelter Foundation were filling plastic water bottles with mud (to make walls) and with water (to make windows). Someone alerted Diaz to Moser’s closely-related idea. He saw the opportunity it presented and, in 2011, founded the social venture ‘Liter of Light’ to put it into practice.

We can also explore the links between different types of innovation and entrepreneurship through the different ways in which they create value. For example, an e-preneur might make a great deal of money by launching a new app – this would be an example of creating economic value. However, if this innovative service was designed to address a social issue (e.g. to raise awareness of a health issue such as diabetes, or to reduce bullying in schools), it could also create social value.


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