HomeNews and BlogNewsInternational Mindset and Culture. Case Studies from Solariskit and CREATIVenergie

International Mindset and Culture. Case Studies from Solariskit and CREATIVenergie

There’s much to consider when considering new geographical markets for your product or service. On a marketing level, this can involve understanding colloquial terms, local competition and existing offers; for operations you may need to have a sense of local infrastructure; and of course there will be legal frameworks , financial considerations and HR perspectives too.

Underlying all of this, culture and mindset will play a key role.

There are always media stories we can read of when, even multi-national, companies with significant marketing teams have named a product inappropriately and it can be far too easy to jump to conclusions on postage systems, transport, wi-fi access and tele-comms. Sometimes, we can be so keen to provide solution for what we see as critical issues that we can overlook other needs, challenges and cultural issues we are simply unaware of.

The social enterprise sector has long sought to find solutions that meet community need and work often comes from lived experience yet when we are looking to establish a socially orientated business in a world very different from our own we may of course need a hand and on the ground experience to help us shape our thinking and avoid any preconceptions.

While headquartered in Scotland, Challenges Group also has offices in Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, and has worked with a number of organisations to help shape their thinking. They note that its often easier to input at an early stage rather than once products and services have been developed more fully and based on this experience we are now looking to develop online workshops focused specifically on the culture and mindset you may need to develop if you’re looking to develop work and programmes in emerging economies.

Both Edinburgh-based CREATIVenergie and Dundee’s Solariskit have developed innovative products from their university sites in Dundee and Edinburgh which can be adapted or used in emerging countries to support small scale, locally adaptable, clean energy solutions and have been supported by Challenges Group and their on-the-ground expertise.


From their R&D site in Dundee, Solariskit have developed and manufactures an award-winning, flat packed solar water hearing kit patented clean water heating technology. Through the Challenges Group, ISEO worked with Solariskit’s considerable international trade potential using the support and local knowledge of their team in Rwanda, where a number of practical and cultural challenges had to be overcome.

From their R&D site in Dundee, Solariskit have developed and manufactured an award-winning, flat packed solar water heating kit using patented clean water heating technology. ISEO are guiding Solariskit’s considerable international trade potential with the support and local knowledge of their team in Rwanda. 10 pilot sites have been identified across the country to test Solarskit units locally, but even before this stage was reached, many practical and cultural challenges had to be overcome.  

Solariskit’s original international ambitions required some rethinking for Rwanda. A 10 site pilot scheme was developed to provide Solariskit with further valuable insight to the Rwandan market, and they hope that the Rwandans will see the potential offered by their Scottish-designed clean, green energy tech. 

As well as  developing an understanding of how trade works locally product adaptations were needed too.  Solariskit units are designed for flat roofs but most existing property in Rwanda features pitched roofs, so the company’s business strategy required a rethink to target new build, flat-roofed residential developments, and hotels. The back-to-the-drawing-board process can be laborious, but with Challenge Group’s support to think long term, Solariskit have recognised the commercial potential with hotels. After all, Rwanda is a destination of choice, but tourists demand hot water, and hot water can come via Dundee-designed technology.  


Heriot Watt-based R&D social enterprise CREATIVenergie have developed clean energy technology which supports solar distribution and more recently, biogas.  Their innovative back end designs sit behind clean energy technology and they have developed a tracker which monitors a biogas processing unit’s performance. This Edinburgh social enterprise really know their cutting edge technological stuff and they are also exploring the potential for small clean energy units for use in the emerging world

Again, ISEO and the Challenges Group have worked with the tech wizardry of CREATIVenergie bringing international expertise and local knowledge. Between them they have developed test projects in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. 

However, for companies like CREATIVenergie, the overseas trade process can mean having to hear that a big idea may struggle to work on the ground in one of their African partner countries. Notions of rapid growth and big turnover increases are just not realistic given local economics or ways of working. ISEO’s role is to encourage a refocusing of priorities towards demand-driven developments. While from a Scottish HQ it might seem sensible to promote biogas or solar water heating technology for an entire population, we also must remember that when most Rwandans don’t even have a shower, those ambitions have to be carefully reconsidered.  

There’s so much potential for long term success across the emerging world for companies like CREATIVenergie and Solariskit and we hope, through our partnership approach here at ISEO one of the things we can support entrepreneurs with is this understanding of local culture and infrastructure to enable them to best develop their innovative products to best effect for these new markets. 

If ISEO can help you then do get in in touch.

You can also join our Mindset and Culture Workshop with Challenges Group on February 23rd.

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