Providing Valuable Insights in Early Development
LCA can plan a major role in the development of new technologies and industries by providing valuable insights in the early development stages.
There is considerably more flexibility to change a system at the early stages of product development in the ideation or design phases. At the ideation stage, changes may only be “on paper” or in a model, a stage where it costs much less to make those changes, or changes may be in materials used at lab scale before supply chains have been developed and certified. As the product moves through the development phases into the design, changes may still be only in drawings, but small changes may require changes to multiple drawings or models. At the pilot scale, volumes increase, and costs to try different processes or raw ingredients increase.
One LCA technique that is well applied to emerging technologies and early-stage R&D is Anticipatory LCA. Anticipatory LCA offers the opportunity to use environmental impacts as design criteria as early as the ideation phase. The use of stakeholder value assessment, underspecification (Olivetti et al. 2013) projections of technological development, characterization factors based on interim data (Eckelman et al. 2012; Wender et al. 2017), and extensive scenario analysis results in insight that can guide the product development phases. This information can provide innovators with valuable insights about directions that would minimize product impact through the life cycle and generate a product with enhanced environmental performance.
EarthShift Global is a leader in the development and application of Anticipatory LCA and other LCA methods for emerging technologies and early stage R&D.