The ageing of nations is an enormous challenge for governments and national economies as well as for researchers and companies Efforts to improve the quality of life of older citizens can also provide an opportunity for the furniture industry, in particular to SMEs - that are flexible and can easily adapt to the individual needs of elderly. As part of the [email protected] project, experts from all several countries around the Baltic Sea Region - Poland, Denmark, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, Germany and Sweden - have developed, tested and made available to SMEs ICT-based tools, applications and databases, innovative and creative working methods and knowledge. In addition, they all worked together on synergies between the traditional furniture industry and innovative ICT solutions, on strengthening the innovation capacity to develop intelligent products and adapted to the needs of older people. This publication shows the main results of the project and can provide know-how and inspiration for future furniture design for elderly.
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About the project [email protected]
Upholstered furniture for senior users – analysis of functional solutions
Virtual Library, an online knowledge platform about seniors – important findings
Baltic Sea Region furniture SMEs today and tomorrow – survey results
The [email protected] system – addressing seniors’ needs with Smart Furniture
Creative design workshops with students
Other publications by the Baltic Sea Academy
Members of the Hanse Parlament
Members of the Baltic Sea Academy
The ageing of nations observed worldwide is an enormous challenge for governments and national economies as well as for researchers and companies. Above all, it is a challenge for us – the citizens of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR), who are or will be older people – who care for our loved ones in old age and would like to offer them the best care, comfort and security they deserve. Efforts to improve the quality of life of older BSR citizens can give power to our furniture SMEs. As part of the [email protected] project, experts from all Baltic Sea countries – Poland, Denmark, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, Germany and Sweden – have therefore developed, tested and made available to SMEs
ICT based tools, applications and databases;
innovative, creative working methods, developed in a translational environment and cross-sectional specialization, for product design and development;
valuable, rare knowledge on, among other things, furniture safety, reliability, specific needs and preferences of seniors, and the problems they face.
In addition, they all worked together on synergies between the traditional furniture industry and innovative ICT solutions, on strengthening the innovation capacity to develop intelligent products adapted to the needs of older people, and on improving the inspiration and common identity of SMEs in the furniture sector, making them and the whole BSR more innovative and competitive.
The contributions in the book include an excerpt of the work from the 3-year project [email protected] For further information you are invited to visit the project page: https://baltsenior.com/.
Beata Fabisiak, Department of Furniture Design, Faculty of Wood Technology, Poznan University of Life Sciences
Elina Priedulena, Hanse Parlament
Challenge to be addressed
The Baltic Sea Region (BSR) faces the huge societal challenge of aging nations. Helping seniors and improving their quality of life is an urgent task and a great market potential for enterprises in the Baltic Sea region. Europe had 90 million of elderly aged 60+ in 2015 (18% of the population). The predictions indicate that the percentage of seniors in European society will reach 24% in 2030 (EUROSTAT). The number of seniors is rising in all continents. By 2050, 2 billion worldwide will be 60+. This enormous challenge can be turned into a great business opportunity since seniors need age-appropriate furniture and interior design enhancing their comfort of living, safety and independence. For many years the problem of aging of societies was unnoticed and neglected. The market offer of products adapted to seniors’ needs is fragmentary, or almost non-existent. The previous research (performed within the StarDust project) confirmed that more than 90% of Polish seniors reported not having kitchen adapted to their needs. At the same time, the research proved that seniors make expenditures on furniture, as the majority of them (74%) had bought at least 1 item in the last 5 years. This situation is due to the fact that for many years seniors were not treated as valuable customers having purchasing power. But the times have changed, and also the senior population has transformed. The generation of baby boomers – people born in the period of 1946-1964 – are now entering senior age. This generation has different purchasing behaviour and a different lifestyle than the previous one. Companies need to recognise that in order to capture the market niche.
The furniture industry in the Baltic Sea Region is developing five times faster than in other regions of the EU. The Baltic Sea Region is rich in design traditions and industry potential, with Germany and Poland being the 3rd and 6th biggest furniture producers and 2nd and 4th biggest exporters of furniture in the world. The woodworking industry consists of 1.5 million employees solely in Poland and Germany. World Intellectual Property Organization confirms: in 2013 there were over 207 thousand BSR IP filings in Industrial Design registered, with Germany, Poland and Sweden accounting for 86% of it. In the last decade a huge increase (69%) of that number has been observed in the whole BSR, being over 90% in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Aspirations to improve life quality of older BSR citizens can actually give even more power to the furniture SMEs.
However, to seize the new demand opportunity (stemming from the needs of aging society), the BSR furniture industry needs support in branding, transnational cooperation and cross-sectional specialization, new product development methods based on a design thinking approach and open innovation, and knowledge on inter alia senior preferences, their home space requirements, etc., to respond optimally to silver economy market changes. Moreover, it is important to point out the lack of EU Standards on Safety Requirements for Furniture for seniors.
There is a great chance for BSR enterprises for raising their competitiveness and innovativeness by being aware of and reacting fast to the new needs and niche that appear not only on the European market but also worldwide.
Another huge challenge is to provide BSR companies insight into new potential markets, and both new working methods and knowledge to develop new products, strengthening their competitiveness and innovativeness and increasing market share and at the same time to assure the society will benefit through smart solutions that enhance independence for the user. This will mean stronger, more innovative and competitive BSR, with higher seniors’ life quality, less expenses on healthcare in municipalities, and senior users will gain independence and autonomy and finally good comfort and safety of home living.
To support this process and make BSR stronger, partners in the [email protected] project, empowered with the broad competencies of leading BSR actors in the field of furniture, design, technology, ICT and robotics, economy and social sciences have developed solutions: databases, innovative, creative working methods for product design and development, and valuable, rare knowledge on, among other things, furniture safety, reliability, specific needs and preferences of seniors, the problems they face when using furniture, etc. Moreover, synergies have been developed between traditional furniture industry and innovative ICT solutions in the process of cross-sectional specialization and encouraging examples of smart furniture supporting seniors in their daily lives have been developed. BSR furniture companies gained inspiration and common identity, enriched with the wise and beautiful story of mystical old oaks. Through the tools and activities organized within the project, knowledge and competences of BSR companies as well as their capability of working in a transnational environment have been enhanced. Consequently, this supported the improvement of their capacity of innovation to create smart products adapted to senior needs, making them and the whole BSR more innovative and competitive.
Objectives and activities
The project [email protected] was co-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG Baltic Sea Region programme under the programme-specific objective: Non-technological innovation: To advance the Baltic Sea Region performance in non-technological innovation based on increased capacity of innovation actors. The project ran from 2016 to 2019.
According to the programme's specific objective, the project had two comprehensive project objectives, but before they are presented, the project's target group should be identified: companies with ambitions to produce home furniture that improve the quality of life, comfort and safety of the elderly. The project's two objectives are:
1. To provide Baltic Sea Region enterprises having ambitions to produce home furniture, improving seniors life quality, comfort and safety, with adequate tools (e.g. knowledge databases, virtual library, web applications ), new knowledge (on furniture safety requirements and reliability, ergonomics, elderly people preferences and needs, the problems they face when using different types of home furniture, etc.) and new working methods (e.g. design thinking, open innovation) for new product design and development to be able to create smart products adapted to senior needs, as well as to enable their application in design and production practice, making them and the BSR more innovative and competitive.
2. To provide Baltic Sea Region enterprises having ambitions to produce home furniture, improving seniors’ life quality, comfort and safety, with adequate tools (virtual library with portfolios of designers, companies and students from BSR countries, knowledge databases), new knowledge (on elderly people’s households’ characteristics in different BSR countries, seniors’ preferences and needs in different BSR countries) and new working methods (introduced in the form of Innovation Camp and transnational workshops), new collaboration and learning possibilities for new product design and development to increase their capacity to create smart products adapted to senior needs, making them and the BSR more innovative and competitive.
To achieve all the project objectives the partnership was composed of 10 partners and 6 associated partners from 9 BSR countries. The whole project work was structured in 5 work packages (WPs) containing a considerable number of activities and learning workshops and events.
The presentation of the project will be made following the structure of the project, namely through a short description of the work packages.
Work Package 1: Project Management and Administration
The objective of the work package was to secure the overall project and time management, and to combine and use the resources in the most effective way for benefit of all participants.
1. Project Coordination: The project coordinator was supported by a project team of experts/researchers working together within the previous StarDust project of the BSR programme, but also with experience in leading and participating in a number of other national and international projects. The cooperation between the project partners has always included management of actions performed by different actors: research institutions, companies and clusters and has been characterised by a high level of innovation, which has proven its worth in a number of patent applications.
2. The decision-making process was made by a Steering Committee comprised of representatives of partner organizations involved meaning: universities, clusters, and municipalities. The Steering Committee had the role of providing strategic level input and decisions related to project activities, securing project support in BSR countries and ensuring engagement from national participants. An Advisory Management Committee was comprised of the project coordinator and the project managers and leaders of work packages and WP activities leaders – researchers, cluster managers. Its aim was the operative coordination of activities and ensuring integration across WPs.
By including partners from all participating countries in the project, the transnational level was ensured both at the decision making and executive level of the project management as well as in supportive structures.
Beyond that, the project had a content management team that was organized by the lead partner who should provide full administrative assistance for the project implementation and a team of financial managers and accountants with the knowledge, skills and experience in various EU programmes which ensured proper project financial management.
Work Package 2: Development of tools to support furniture companies
The aim of the work package was to provide new tools and new knowledge that are transferred to enterprises, thus constituting the key factor in competing on external markets and making BSR more competitive and innovative; to create together the best and most effective ways to communicate and share knowledge manufacturers need in the design process; to provide knowledge necessary and crucial for creating innovative pieces of furniture adapted to elderly people’s needs characterized by ergonomics, safety and reliability. The aim was to develop solutions that could help to increase the competitiveness of manufacturers of furniture for seniors, so that they could become leaders in this niche of the market. Due to the project activities the companies are provided with a catalogue of ICT-based tools to improve their innovation capacity and develop intelligent products for older people. All the tools, materials and information are now stored in a [email protected] Virtual Library (www.baltsenior.com
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