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Idrees Rasouli

MPhil work

Driven By Necessity: Resource-Constrained Innovation

How do we conceive, design and implement successful new products and services in resource-constrained contexts, and which combination of resource-constrained innovation terminologies embody the perfect ingredients to design masterfully for multi-context use?

Conventional concept of innovation involves substantial financial investments, resource usage and existence of supporting institutions.

21st century innovator, both individuals and corporations, in emerging and developed economies that lack such resources and institutions demand the concept of innovation to be modified accordingly.

Extant literature on this subject, however, stands divided, fuzzy and fragmented, with no clear theoretical or practical framework that explains the concept of resource-constrained innovation.

Thus, the focus of this practice-based research project is on understanding how innovation can be pursued with the existence of such constraints, and describes four possible design journeys: How do we design and innovate new products in resource-constrained environments? How do we design to advance resource-constrained societies? How do we design to protect critical resources? And, how do we design to embrace resource limitations?

Through critical reflection on the Idrees' own design practice, and the initiation of new collaborative design projects, this research project develops and tests the concept of designing and innovating new products for the unknown. The concept is explored as a form of approach and framework for new product development in the emerging and developed markets. Idrees’ own design practice is situated and analysed in the context of how these innovations exactly can be achieved.

Drawing on theories of strategic innovation, hybrid innovation, and in particular NASA’s Faster, Better, Cheaper innovation framework developed in the 1990s for the space industry, this research project sets out a framework for systematically analysing the different types of innovations in this domain and conceptualising the design distinctions between them. Collaboration across different industries is established as a key mode of thinking and innovating, bringing to light the effects of difference in design outcomes.

This research aims to develop a design decisions toolkit for conceiving, designing and implementing new products and services in resource-constrained contexts. Therefore, the value of this research is exceptional for individuals and corporations who are trying to innovate successfully in resource-constrained contexts — both, in emerging and developed countries.

MA work

Today, washing clothes by hand is a major obstacle in the life of 2.5 billion people worldwide — almost a third of the world’s population — and 29 million in a country like Afghanistan alone.

To address this global need, 'Qaf' — an innovative washing system — helps wash clothes in a better and more efficient way, by eliminating the individual’s dependency on physical labour such as hitting, scrubbing and excessively washing by hand, in Afghanistan and other developing countries. It is designed to be a desirable household product, which would give the user exclusivity, ownership and empowerment.

'Qaf' will bring the user and the washing process together through affordability, efficiency, sustainability and cultural and local practices, making hand washing clothes a meaningful and relevant endeavour by providing reliability and flexibility of use in uncertain conditions, such as lack of resources.

'Qaf '— a transportable washing system — washes clothes three times quicker through a 65 per cent reduction in labour and a 60 per cent  increase in efficiency compared to washing by hand. It uses kinetic force with a rolling mechanism to wash clothes outdoors on-the-go or stationary at home, and helps reduce the current water wastage of 10 litres per wash to just 3 litres. Through decreasing the amount of time dedicated to washing clothes, 'Qaf' will enable users to invest their time in other more productive and agreeable undertakings. It will further benefit users through reduced contact with detergents and water, ultimately having a beneficial effect on their physical and mental well-being.


  • MPhil


    School of Design


    Innovation Design Engineering, 2015–2019

  • MA Degree


    School of Design


    MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2013

  • "My practice and research is influenced by a matrix of hybrid narratives from which I create ideas that solve real world human and business problems. I am curious, empathetic, rigorous, experimental and a creative "ideas" person — talk to me about design, the economy, society, environment, culture, education, a bit on technology, and of course, humanity."

    Trained at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London — Idrees cultivated his design leadership skills through extensive practice and collaboration with a number of world-famous architecture, design, engineering and branding firms before founding Foreign Works (a design and innovation bureau operating in the fields of product innovation, systems design and new environments) and X-Crop (an urban agricultural technologies corporation operating in the fields of water, energy and food cultivation systems for cities); with direct involvement in projects across a wide range of industries, including technology, automotive, healthcare, transport, fashion, aviation, consumer goods, manufacturing and construction throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

    With a personal design manifesto — simple, impactful and thoughtful — evidenced in his practice, Idrees acts as a conduit between the present and the future by clarifying the confused, re-framing the old, illuminating the mundane, and humanising the technological, with a strong ability to imagine and envision beyond problem-solving and ask the "why" and "what if" that drive ground-breaking designs and paradigm-shifting strategies for cities, products, services, brands and environments.

    Born in Kabul, raised in London and a trilingual who has been nurtured in over a dozen countries — Idrees is an award-winning designer, conceptual architect, urban innovator, business & brand design lead, and creative researcher, with a focus on disruptive market innovation. He is enthusiastic about working on citizen and city challenges, and with sustainability and societal transformation as a recurring theme in his work, he constantly searches for radical new solutions and breakthrough opportunities that solve real-world human and business problems in different cultural contexts and domains.

    A frequent traveller, he loves the diversity of people and culture around the world and the opportunity to experience first-hand global and local architecture, design, brands and food. Often spotted in cities, markets and grocery stores examining a variety of unfamiliar materials, products and brands or new experiences.

  • Degrees

  • MSc. Innovation Design Engineering, Imperial College London; MA. Innovation Design Engineering, Royal College of Art; BA (Hons). Design & Architecture, Ravensbourne
  • Experience

  • Architectural Designer (International Projects Team), Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Global 2006–2008; Special Projects Design Lead (Bridges, Facades & Infrastructure Team), Ramboll, London 2008–2010; Strategic Design & Futures Lead (Branded Environments Team), FITCH, Middle East and Asia 2010–2011; Design & Innovation Lead (New Product Development Team), Fortune 500 Companies, Global 2011–June 2013; Co Founder / Chief Product Architect, Sealeaf, London 2012–2013; Senior Lecturer - Department of Architecture, Ravensbourne, London 2009–2014; Fellow InnovationRCA, Royal College of Art, London 2013–2014; Founder / Chief Product Architect, X-Crop, London 2014–present; Founder / Chief Design Director, Foreign Works, London 2013–present; Head of Programme - Department of Architecture, Ravensbourne, London 2014–present; Governor, Ravensbourne, London 2016-present
  • Exhibitions

  • Free Range Architecture Show, Old Truman Brewery, London, 2007; New Designers Show, Business Design Centre, London, 2007; Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London, 2011; Seoul Social City Software, Seoul Design Foundation, Seoul, 2012; Design Futures Japan, KEIO University, Tokyo, 2012; Imperial Sports Innovation Show, Imperial College London, 2012; Rio Tinto Innovation Show, Rio Tinto HQ, London, 2012; Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London, 2013; ShowRCA, Royal College of Art, London, 2013; SustainRCA Show, Royal College of Art, London, 2013
  • Awards

  • Winner, Villiers High School, 2001; Winner, Ealing & West London College, 2003; Winner, Vitra, 2005; Winner, New Designers London, 2006; Winner, Free Range London, 2006; 1st Prize, Rio Tinto Innovation Challenge, 2012; Shortlist, The Helen Hamlyn Design Awards, 2013; Shortlist, Innovation Hothouse Institute of Engineering Designers, 2013; Winner, James Dyson Foundation, 2013; Winner, Core77 Awards, 2013; Finalist, SustainRCA, 2013; Finalist, Conran Design Award, 2013; Finalist, Dyson Design Bursary James Dyson Foundation, 2013; Winner, Wates Foundation Bursary for Social Innovation Wates Foundation, 2013; Fellowship, InnovationRCA, 2013; Nomination, INDEX Award, 2015; Recipient, Ravensbourne Scholar, 2015
  • Conferences

  • Designing for the Sea, University of Milano Bicocca, Italy, 2014; The Architecture of Money, The Culture Capital Exchange, UK, 2016; Education x Industry, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK, 2017; Smarter Cities Now, Ravensbourne, UK, 2017; Innovations For Emerging Markets, InnoFrugal Conference, Finland, 2017