Last year Slovenian-based Gorenje, one of Europe’s few producers of domestic appliances, or “white goods” took a EUR 50 million loan for research and development from the European Investment Bank. We asked their executive vice president for joint R&D, Dr Boštjan Pečnik, to tell us what the market trends are that are driving innovation in this sector.

1) Internet of Things

The Internet of Things refers to the trend to connect everyday devices to the internet, so that they can send and receive data. “All of our products in our pipeline are ready to be connected to the internet,” Pečnik says.

2) Ageing population

“Our mission is to create innovation that simplifies the user’s life. But we can see differences in how the younger and the older users’ expectations differ in how they want to have their lives simplified. Take the user interface of an appliance for example. Younger people want one that looks and feels similar to the touch-screen of the smartphone. Older people want to feel the knobs. They like the interface to have a mechanical feel to it.”

3) Smaller households and populations moving into cities have less living space

“Out of these trends you can project the demand for more compact appliances – compact ovens, slim washing machines that fit into the small apartments and that make sense for the smaller households. But there’s an interesting aspect that we see with these consumers. Due to their busy lifestyles they only wash their clothes on the weekends. So the load capacity expected from these slim washing machines is actually bigger than before.”

4) Health and wellness

“People value, and are thus willing to pay more for healthier storage, healthier preparation of food, healthier ways of caring for their clothes. This will involve steam appliances and appliances allowing for lower-temperature cooking of food. People are also increasingly eating in, with TV chefs a big driver of this trend. The new appliances that are connected, that allow for the downloading of the recipes from these chefs, are answering this trend.”

5) Environmental awareness

“We saw this beginning some five years ago, with people wanting to tackle their vast energy and water consumption. What we know now is that people won’t accept this at the expense of functionality. We will need to try to reduce the environmental impact without sacrificing function, without sacrificing quality.”

Matteo Fusari, the EIB’s senior engineer for innovative industries, notes that, to give some examples, modern washing machines have reduced their water and energy consumption to a third, when compared to 20 years ago. Dishwashers have followed a similar trend: energy consumption has almost halved and water usage per cycle represents nowadays less than 80% than what would be needed to wash the same amount of dishes by hand. “This was possible due to investments in research, development and innovation and to the related advancements in technology,” he says.