The World’s most affordable solar lamp was produced by a UK design consultancy in collaboration with a giant Chinese manufacturer. Inventid, a Manchester-based firm has designed the SM100 solar lamp, which retails in African countries for around $5 (£3.85). The lamp was developed in collaboration with Yingli, a China-based solar power manufacturer, and a charity, SolarAid.
There are around 600 million people in Africa living without electricity and relying on kerosene burning lamps. These lamps are expensive and can cause house fires, and also produce smokes which are linked to respiratory diseases and cataracts.
The hand-sized SM100 when fully charged can run for eight hours. The new lamp which is currently on sale was trialled with 9,000 families in the African countries of Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia.
The co-founders of Inventid, Henry James, and Bryn Morgan set up their company in 2012 and worked with charities in Africa to develop the lamp.
James explained that kerosene kept families locked in a cycle of extreme poverty and nearly one-quarter of their monthly income was spent in burning the fuel. He added that to break this cycle they worked with SolarAid to design a lamp that even the poorest families could afford. This meant designing a lamp for $5 in Africa.
James said that they gathered local insights into the routines of families, the environmental conditions, and the layout of dwellings. They listened to the ideas and aspirations of people whose personal experiences helped shape the product that was co-created in Africa. The lamp was designed as a rectangular model like a solar panel, instead of being round, with the objective of reducing the component costs.
He highlighted that they were looking at parts of the world where people lived on $350 a year. The sales trial has been heartening, and it had to be totally right if people were going to adopt the lamp or introduce it into their daily routines and lives, explained James.
The SM100 is an exemplary product for the new £83m Design Ventura education programme by Design Museum. The SM100 won a silver award earlier this year in the design for society and design for sustainability categories at the European Product Design Awards.