Blog of Urs Riggenbach

Video: Impact Residency at Autodesk Pier 9

Posted Tuesday 19 December 2017 by Urs Riggenbach.

Watch how Autodesk Foundation and Pier 9 supported this year on our path to design, develop and spread our entrepreneurial solar thermal solution!

Listen to Sherry Wong of Pier 9, Zoé Bezpalko of Autodesk Foundation and Eerik Wissenz, William Cleaver and Urs Riggenbach of talking about our achievements in Kenya, Tanzania and how Autodesk’s technology center Pier 9 supported the innovation process.


More about Autodesk Foundation and the Impact Residency at Pier 9:

The Autodesk Foundation supports the design and creation of innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. The Impact Residency provides a unique opportunity for Foundation grantees to use the resources of the Autodesk Pier 9 Technology Center in San Francisco to iterate on their own designs aimed at having a positive effect on the future of our planet and in our daily lives.

Impact Residents have access to the training, tools and machines, software, and human expertise Pier 9 offers. The ability to iterate and deploy solutions quickly is made possible by rapid prototyping on-site, direct access to the teams who built the software used in the design process, and expert workshop staff.


Further Links:

Autodesk Foundation

Autodesk Pier 9 Technology Center

Pier 9 Residency Program

GoSol speaks at Autodesk University

Posted Wednesday 4 October 2017 by Urs Riggenbach.

Our Executive Chairman, Eerik Wissenz, was a speaker invited to the last Autodesk University in Cape Town, South Africa, on September 7th and 8th.

During his talk, "Breaking the poverty cycle with solar entrepreneurship", he presented the results of our pilot projects in Kenya and Tanzania and our full model to break the poverty circle in developing countries. He also highlighted the work we’ve done in San Francisco at Autodesk’s facilities and how we’ve used Autodesk tools to improve our engineering and design process.

Autodesk Foundation also hosted round table talks to discuss and share experiences and challenges in sub-Saharan Africa.

Yier Ngima - Solar Peanut Butter

Posted Thursday 8 June 2017 by Urs Riggenbach.

In this video we’re back at the Yier Ngima cooperative in Kenya, to follow up on their feedback after using the Sol5 for a year. at Maker Fair 2017

Posted Tuesday 23 May 2017 by Urs Riggenbach.

Last weekend had a booth at Maker Fair Bay Area, sharing about our impact in Kenya and inviting people to our live showcase on May 25th at Pier 9 . We were invited to Maker Fair by Gearbox, an up and coming Kenyan makerspace who is also supported by Autodesk Foundation.

Here a few impressions from the event:

@Makerbot Flickr
Setting up at Maker Fair
Banner telling the latest updates from Kenya.
Banner about the Yier Ngima Roastery.
Banner about the Koptige Bakery.

San Francisco Showcase, May 25th

Posted Friday 12 May 2017 by Urs Riggenbach.

Come and join us for delicious solar cookies as we demonstrate the Sol5 Solar Oven at Autodesk Pier 9 on May 25th! Experience the power of solar concentration technology and learn how enables entrepreneurs in Africa to go solar with innovative design. The event is taking place during Pier 9’s Open House where 30 other projects by engineers, designers and artists will be on display throughout the Pier 9 facility, with guided tours available at the reception. Be sure to stop by to taste the power of solar!

Event Programme & Press Release PDF

Showcase Day:

Thursday, May 25th, 2:00 – 5:00 PM

Location: Autodesk Pier 9,

The Embarcadero, San Francisco (map)

Event Schedule:

2:00 PM – Solar Baking

• Visitors arrival, snacks and drinks

• See the Sol5 solar concentrator in action

• Baking with the sun, sun permitting :)

2:30 PM – Presentations

• Eerik Wissenz, Executive Chairman, Solar Fire Concentration Ltd

• Zoé Bezpalko, Impact and Design Lead, Autodesk Foundation

• Vanessa Sigurdson, Program Manager, Autodesk Pier 9

• More to be announced

3:30 PM

• Solar Cookies Tasting

• Q and A, Networking

• 30 projects on display by Pier 9’s Residency Program

Solar for All – From Vision to Reality

Posted Wednesday 5 April 2017 by Urs Riggenbach.

Today we are looking back at a year of intense R&D, prototyping, piloting and partnership building in Kenya, Finland and the US, taking us from our vision to an actual proof-of-concept.

At we have been working hard to address the need of millions of entrepreneurs in emerging markets who need cost-efficient and sustainable clean energy to run their businesses. We are developing our own solar concentration technology through applications that provide high-quality heat while aiming at a payback period of less than 1 year. Such a market-based solution would allow a massive number of entrepreneurs to take advantage of solar, and provide the fuel for broader societal transformations as we have outlined in the GoSol Manifesto.

As we have reported earlier, since February part of our team is back in Kenya, following up on the pilot project that we started in cooperation with Weconomy and World Vision before Summer. Last May we installed two SOL5 solar concentrators at a bakery and a peanut-roastery. Even though our local partners have been reporting on the pilots regularly, it was amazing to re-meet the entrepreneurs after leaving the machines with them for more than 9 months, and seeing that they are still used every day and are providing actual value to these entrepreneurs.


Starting up in Kenya with Weconomy

Before our Kenya pilots we faced a big challenge: How do we as a Finnish company get in touch with low-income entrepreneurs to pilot our solar tech in emerging markets? How do we make sure to get the right entrepreneurs, how do we monitor the situation from a distance, how would we provide additional support if needed? Enter Weconomy, an initiative by World Vision Finland who operates in Kenya (among other countries). As one of the world’s largest NGOs, World Vision recognizes that they can play a crucial role by facilitating piloting activities for impact-oriented companies like ours, and they are offering this through their Weconomy program.

Weconomy contributed significantly to the success of our Kenya pilots and their support can be key for any impact-oriented company. Because World Vision Kenya has been supporting the creation of lending groups and business cooperatives in Kenya for a long time, they are well connected to local entrepreneurs and know the capacitation process it takes to set up new business activities. In the planning phase of the project it was Weconomy who identified the suitable entrepreneurs and project sites. They identified the workshop to construct the machines, arranged the transport and capacity building sessions, and connected us with other stakeholders in the country once the the machines were installed.


Proofing Solar Entrepreneurship

When we left the country after a few weeks, a new seed was planted. Now started the monitoring phase where Weconomy would actively facilitate local World Vision Kenya staff to collect user data to help us measure our impact. So without having our own staff on-site and without relying entirely on the entrepreneurs for self-monitoring we were able to gather data to proof our impact.

The data we gathered speaks volumes, and we’ve already shared some in a blog post earlier, but even better is to hear it directly from our entrepreneurs themselves. This year we’re back in Kenya and we have interviewed one of our end-users on his experience with GoSol as a baker, and this is what David had to say:


New Energy for 2017 – Kenya and Tanzania!

Few days ago we officially announced our founding sponsor: Wärtsilä. Through this sponsorship, Wärtsilä has committed to support African societies and businesses and is backing our piloting projects in Kenya and soon Tanzania and the scale-up of our solution through pilots and education.

With their support, we are boosting our piloting in rural areas, but for the first time we are also entering a refugee camp where our technology could play a key role in alleviating energy poverty in short future (see video). This year we will also be entering Tanzania for the first time with a local partner, continuing to develop and adapt our technology to the needs of real-world entrepreneurs.

As we move forward, we wanted to take this moment and reflect on the last months and what we have accomplished. With the genuine feedback from our entrepreneurs in Kenya and the data gathered in cooperation with World Vision and Weconomy, we are now at a point where we can say that through, Solar Fire Concentration is supporting real-world solar entrepreneurs. As we move forward we want to thank all the entrepreneurs, supporters, sponsors and partners that have allowed us to get this far.


Stay tuned for more!


More information:
- Weconomy
- Wärtsilä


Video Blog: OCTO, Autodesk’s Digital Fabrication Lab at Pier 9

Posted Wednesday 29 March 2017 by Urs Riggenbach.

Last week we had the opportunity to visit Autodesk’s OCTO lab. At the lab, Autodesk researches emerging methods of fabrication, looking at everything from machine learning to augmented reality and how that will influence how we make things in the future.

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