Report by: Dr Robert Salter and Dr Stephen White, March 2013
This report is an output from a scoping study of living laboratories (RP3005: CRC Living Laboratory Framework), which examined what living labs are, their benefits and what they need to be successful. It is primarily intended to inform partners in current and prospective CRCLCL projects, so that they might consider these aspects of living laboratories when designing and implementing their projects.
The living laboratories model represents a major new trend that can bring together all the key stakeholders in innovative processes so that the outcome is more integrated, more democratic and more effective for all concerned. Projects of the CRL for Low Carbon Living will be more effective in their efforts to reduce carbon if they heed the lessons to be learned from this model.
Living laboratories are a new way to structure research that emerged in Europe in the past decade. They involve key stakeholders – particularly researchers, industry, government and innovation end-users – in collaborative research in real-world settings to ensure that innovations are practical and acceptable in the specific circumstances of those intended to use them. Though living labs can work for a wide range of subjects, they are well suited to the challenge of reducing carbon, and thus are a highly appropriate structure for CRCLCL projects.
Their advantages are many. They:
- manage stakeholder cooperation
- lead to the pooling of complementary resources
- research the whole innovation process from conception to effective application in the real world
- encourage the sharing of innovations
- give end-users and communities more power in change processes and thereby deepen democracy
- make innovation more visible to those who need to help it along.
In setting up and operating living laboratories there are a number of things to attend to:
- bringing together stakeholders and creating appropriate governance and management structures
- ensuring that parties to the process – who can have very different interests, resources and ways of operating – work well together
- successfully engaging end-users in the process
- arranging finance
- carrying out research
- managing intellectual property concerns while promoting open access to innovation
- disseminating information about living lab outputs and encouraging widespread up-take.
Living lab participants can be helped in this process by the CRCLCL, by the European Network of Living Laboratories (increasingly a global network), and by networking with each other.
This review includes descriptions of a number of living laboratories, particularly European ones, and of the European Network of Living Laboratories (ENoLL). Information was drawn from a tour of European living labs and ENoLL, and from academic and web-based literature on the subject.