Frank Boons (2009) in his book chapter "An evolutionary approach towards the strategic perspectives of firms" of the book <Creating Ecological Value> systematically illustrated the elements and mechanisms of evolutionary theory and provided seven different scenarios of the system dynamics of PCS. After case study of PCS of coffee industry and automobile industry, Frank Boons summarized the theoretical work by looking at the elements of evolutionary mechanisms from three levels, namely firm, resource network and PCS.
As we all know, Darwin firstly proposed an evolutionary theory to explain the changing characteristics of biological organisms. In his famous master piece <Origin of Species>, Darwin bestowed us his crucial insight that new characteristics of species spread through a population when these characteristics fit with the environment in which the organisms lives. Three elements of evolutionary theory were concluded, variation, reproduction and selection.
By mimic of biology, the dynamics of market and social systems could also be explained by evolutionary perspective. Frank in his book took the evolutionary approach in analyzing the complex dynamics of production and consumption system where he argued the three necessary elements are variation, inheritance and selection. Different from biology, companies in economic systems rarely reproduce offsprings but rather inherit their characteristics through transmission or retention. The mechanisms of these three elements have been illustrated from Frank's reasoning.
I independently designed a game which is suitable for classroom teaching and able to embody the evolutionary dynamics. I name it "EU Wind Energy Game"
EU Wind Energy Game
A European Environment Agency report, entitled Europe's onshore and offshore wind energy potentialconfirms wind energy could power Europe many times over. The report highlights wind power’s potential in 2020 as three times greater than Europe’s expected electricity demand, rising to a factor of seven by 2030.
The EWEA estimates that 230 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity will be installed in Europe by 2020, consisting of 190 GW onshore and 40 GW offshore. This would produce 14-17% of the EU's electricity, avoiding 333 million tonnes of CO2 per year and saving Europe €28 billion a year in avoided fuel costs.
Research from a wide variety of sources in various European countries shows that support for wind power is consistently about 80 per cent amongst the general public. As of 2011, Denmark is generating more than a quarter of its electricity from wind. 83 countries around the world are using wind power on a commercial basis. In 2010 wind energy production was over 2.5% of total worldwide electricity usage, and growing rapidly at more than 25% per annum.
Aim: a classroom teaching game to let students letting students experience an evolutionary process in relation to industrial ecology. In the game, variation, inheritance and selection processes should be able to occur.
Participants: Divide the students into groups, two or three in one group representing an European country. As there are totally 48 countries in Europe. We might only take the most typically 20 into account in this game. (consider the student numbers).
Technology: Wind turbines
1. General Background:
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electrical power. Large wind farms consist of hundreds of individual wind turbines which are connected to the electric power transmission network. Offshore wind farms can harness more frequent and powerful winds than are available to land-based installations and have less visual impact on the landscape but construction costs are considerably higher. Small onshore wind facilities are used to provide electricity to isolated locations and utility companies increasingly buy surplus electricity produced by small domestic wind turbines.
2. Types of turbines:
The variety of wind turbines that has been devised or proposed to harness wind energy is considerable and includes many unusual devices. Generally speaking, wind turbines could be categorized as Horizontal axis and Vertical axis in terms of the design. Horizontal axis turbines could be further categorized as single-bladed, double-bladed, three-bladed, multi-bladed, upwind, downwind, multi-rotor, counter-rotating blades etc.. Vertical axis turbines could be further categorized as primarily drag-type, primarily life-type and combinations etc. In terms of location, wind turbines could be grouped as off-shore, on-shore and inland turbines.
3. Environmetal Impact:
Wind energy development has both positive and negative environmental impacts. The scale of its future implementation will rely on successfully maximizing the positive impacts whilst keeping the negative impacts to the minimum. Wind turbines could generate negative environmental impact from the following aspects:
- Electromagnetic interference
- Impact on aviation related issues
- Impact on Wildlife
- Impact on Public attitudes and planning
Target of Game:
Students are divided into groups representing different countries. The target of these "countries" is to develop wind energy industry within their counties. They should systematically consider the strategy of development, the economic benefit they could reap, the environmental impact caused throughout the development and their positions in the evolutionary technology trajectory. Thus, after several rounds of play, the group (country) has achieved most economic benefit and the group who controlled the environmental impact at minimum are the winners.
How to Play:
For each type of wind turbine in Box A and Box B, the turbine has three attributes --- environmental impact index, price and profit index. The information (attributes) in Box A is publicly available thus open at the beginning of the game. Nevertheless, the information in Box B is fixed but hidden and no one knows the attributes of turbines in Box B when the game starts. The information is only revealed along with the game by leading countries' technology innovation development.
At the beginning of the game, Round 1, each country (group) use its budget to purchase existing wind technology in Box A as the technology attributes (environmental impact index, price, profit index) are all publicly available. Countries could decide which turbine to buy and how many to buy according to their budget and the price of the turbine. After the first round, each country should have an overview of their virgin development of wind power by calculating the environmental impact and profit.
Play this for three rounds, then compare the environmental impact generated and profit reaped by different countries. After comparison, there must be two leading countries in two aspects, namely the leading country who reaped the most profit, and the leading country whose environmental impact is minimum. This implies these two leading countries have current best application of wind energy from the economic and environmental perspective. Perhaps these two countries have more expert in wind energy technology.
So, we give these two countries some "reward" which is the "subsidy for R&D" from European Union. The teacher plays the role of European Union and decides how much money EU (he) would like to give the two leading countries for subsidy of R&D development.
After receiving the R&D subsidy from EU, the two countries go to Box B and randomly pick two innovative technologies (two folded paper notes). The two innovative technology either have higher profit rate or lower environmental impact index than previous existing technologies in Box A. In the coming round, the two countries who pick the innovative technologies must spend at least half of their budget at hand because they received subsidy from EU and they should have money) to apply the new technology at hand (the one he choose).
Then they open the information to public (they put the chosen two technology into Box A). This action reflects the fact that there are always technology forerunners who shoulder the responsibility of technology development and diffusion. Then at the next round (Round 4), participating countries have two more options in Box A to choose. Because the innovative technology is more expensive and not every country has enough money to widely apply the new technology. Some pool countries might still choose the previous technologies (Turbine A, B, C) until they reap more profit and have enough money. (This reflects the market mechanism).
Play at this level for two or three rounds. After each round each country should report their current environmental impact situation and profit (budget) situation. Statistics should be recorded in terms of each country's environmental impact and profit, and most importantly their application share of different technologies. (the statistic is useful for after-game final analysis).
After two rounds, compare different countries situation and there must be again two leading countries in economic and environmental benefits. The two new leading countries receive subsidy from EU and do exactly the same thing as last R&D process. They pick two more new technology from Box B and have to use half of their budget to apply the new technology in the next round. They of course also put the new technology into Box A so that other countries could also learn to apply although they don't receive subsidy from EU.
EU (the teacher) at certain time, could pose selection pressure by posing incentives on specific type of technology in Box A. For example, EU could rule that in certain round each country must have x% application on Turbine X, etc. This could cause certain country bankrupt at coming rounds if the compulsory technology is expensive and this country cannot afford it.
Worthy to explain is that the action that leading countries put innovative technology into public pool (Box A) simulates their responsibility of promoting new economic-promising or environmental friendly technologies. The innovative technology in Box B is hidden and this suggests the variation of wind turbine technology development -- the evolution of wind turbine technology could go to various direction. Moreover, after R&D and the innovative technologies being put into Box A, other countries in Europe could also learn from leading R&D countries and begin to apply the new technology. This simulates the Transmission mechanism in evolution theory.
Attention should be paid that leading countries who pick new technologies from Box B also have the right to protect their R&D result and prevent it from transmission. In such case, the country should apply for patent and pay patent fee to EU (the teacher) to keep the technology information not publicly open until at certain point they decide to release the information.
This is especially true if one country continuously becomes the leading country who choose innovative technology. At the second time of development, he might want to keep the innovation secret before he reaped enough benefit from his previous innovation which has been put into Box A. This could be explained by citing Frank Boons' elaboration in his book " A major issue then becomes at what moment the novelty should be introduced. Although first mover advantages can be substantial, this does not imply that a novelty is best introduced whenever it is marketable. Firms may be in a position to decide to reap the benefits of existing technologies before introducing new ones. "
Attention should also be paid that several countries could actually form coalition and create a niche within the EU system. For example, the Nordic countries might want to aggregate their budget to develop an expensive innovative technology from Box B and keep the technology secret from non-Nordic countries by applying patent. But Nordic countries within the niche have the right to freely develop the innovative technology. This niche mechanism is also possible to emerge and exist in this game.
After several rounds of playing, the game comes to the end. We then compare the total environmental impact accumulation and profit accumulation of different countries. The country who has achieve most economic benefit from developing wind energy and the country who has minimized the environmental impact through the development excels and becomes the Winner of the Game.
Shall we just cease after telling the winner of the game ? Perhaps we could learn more if we look at the large picture from the system's level and take a close scrutiny to the statistic records. If the records are kept in excel, we could easily tell how the profit of wind technology raise and how the "Per round environmental impact" is decreased (regardless the total accumulation is increasing). This resembles the technology evolution could achieve economic and environmental benefit. Based on the statistics, if we compare the results of first three rounds (before first R&D) with the results after R&D, we might be able to find that through the wind turbine technology evolution, the decoupling of economic profit and environmental impact occurred and became more and more impressive.
Finally, my acknowledgement after designing the game
In conclusion, I independently designed this EU Wind Energy Game version 1.0. Further discussion on the game and revision are always open and welcome. I must say designing a game has never attracted me so much before. I really appreciate the study atmosphere in the international classroom and all the knowledge and theories learned in the Social System - Policy and Management lectures. The teacher's devotion and all classmates' resourceful discussions have inspired me so much. The case study and provided reading materials are extraordinarily helpful and thought provoking. Moreover, I always learn from in-depth reasoning and many new interesting staffs from my colleagues' blog entries. The blog interaction between the teacher and students give me the passion to think and write. The teaching style is so awesome and I would like to conclude attending the SSPM class is my happiest time of my first semester study in Netherlands.
For this specific blog topic, I tried to make the elements and mechanisms in Evolutionary Theory able to be reflected in the game dynamics. I also integrated my previous experience of Model United Nations, which is a simulation game of United Nations and attracts elite students all over the game. Perhaps more elements from Model United Nations could be introduced into this game if we introduce lobbying mechanisms or negotiation mechanisms into the "evolution game".