Living Labs are a cycle of activities such as co-design, exploration, experimentation and evaluation that are repeated throughout the stages of an innovative process. They are in real-life environments based on user co-creation, placing citizens at the centre of innovation. They act as intermediaries among citizens, companies and government agencies.
Name of Method
Livings Labs include real-life experimentation with co-involvement of participants in the innovation processes. Participants coordinate the innovation projects, collect and generate ideas. Living Labs play a role in innovation processes by gathering information and generating ideas, concepts, products and services.
Type/Level of Method
Living Labs can propose initiatives that tackle existing governance structures by proposing e-government initiatives. Using citizen driven innovation processes and fostering strong collaboration with public bodies and grassroots movements.
Living Labs help companies' research and design department to experiment in real-life environments with participants, users and partners.
Problem, Purpose and Needs
Living Labs integrate user-centred research and open innovation in which companies can team up with diverse actors to geenrate new ideas, concepts, services and products.
Relevance to Climate Neutrality
Essential Considerations for Commissioning Authorities
There are also different types of Living Labs according to Leminen, Westerlund and Nyström (2012):
- This Living Lab is linked to the strategic actions of a firm's product-development function. The aim of this type of lab is to develop new products and services by the help of the Living Lab network. These labs are short-lived as the organisers want rapid results.
- This type of Living Lab is initiated by enabler actors such as public-sector actors, NGOs, and towns and municipalities. Such labs aim to pursue societal improvements such as developing specific regions or city areas, or reducing local unemployment. Enabler-driven Living Labs are usually built around a regional-development body or programme.
- Such labs are launched by developer organisations (educational institutions, universities or consultants) as a result of an action. These labs aim to develop knowledge, research and finding solutions to given issues. Often, provider-driven Living Labs are part of specific projects.
- These labs are focused on the users' everyday-life problems and are established by user communities. The aim of these labs is to solve problems while retaining the values of users and the communities. These labs are long-lived and are built around a community.
Governance Models and Approaches
Spectrum of participation
Actors and Stakeholder Relationships
- Webber: Decides the potential actors to be a part of the Living Lab.
- Instigator: Influences and helps actors' deicison making.
- Gatekeeper: Has the needed resources.
- Advocate: Shares and distributes information externally.
- Producer: Contributes to the Lab's development processes.
- Planner: Takes part in the Lab's development processes.
- Accessory provider: Promotes its services/expertise.
- Coordinator: An organisation/individual that acts as a network actor. It coordinates a group of participants.
- Builder: Builds trust between participants.
- Messenger: Collects ideas from coordinators and disseminates information in the network.
- Facilitator: Helps actors reacha desired goal.
- Orchestrator: Guides and supports the network's activities and organises the whole network of the Living Lab.
- Integrator: Integartes ideas and concepts of different Living Lab actors to an entity.
- Informant: A role of the users to share users' knowledge and opinions to the Living Lab.
- Tester: Another role of the users to test innovation in real-life environments.
- Contributor: The majority role of users in the Living Lab. They colaborate with the other actors to develop new products/services.
- Co-creator: The fourth user role that co-designs a service/product with a firm's research and design team and the other Livign Lab actors.
Actors and Stakeholders
Interaction between participants
Social Innovation Development Stage
Different activities require different times of participation. Some living labs have lasted 13-19 months.
Resources and Investments
Account for the types of engagement with citizens: interviews, workshops, focus groups, narratives, brainstorming sessions etc.
Account for the materials: camera, notes, audio etc.
Resources and Investments
Step by Step
Identify. Identify which role citizens are in (lead user, innovator, customer, visitor, employee etc.)
Interact. Interaction with outside stakeholders such as public authorities, citizens.
Influence. Identify what influences can the work of participants have.
Inform. Inform citizens of their role, expectations and freedom to choose.
Iterate. Build citizens’ knowledge about solutions and different viewpoints.
Inspire. Inspire citizens to express themselves.
Illuminate. Open the environment so citizens feel comfortable to express their thoughts.
Integrate. Representing citizen needs in the solutions.
Implement. Implement and test results in the users’ perceived real-life setting.
Co-design. Emergence of ideas and needs. Physical/virtual communities/audience's feedback.
Exploration. Rank needs and ideas transforming them into usage scenarios. Define prototypes.
Experimentation. Test the imagined/actual prototypes. Deploy user-observation resources and collection of user feedback
Evaluation. Highlight errors of assessment with the prototypes, results are accessible to all participants.
Flexibility and Adaptability
- Supported by local governments, decision makers
- Business model that creates, delivers and captures
- Quadruple-helix approach with different roles
- Engagement of skilled professionals to moderate the engagement processes.
- ICT tools
- Openness to different data collection and analysis approaches
Existing Guidelines and Best Practice
References and Further Resources
De Kinderen, Q. (2021). Citizens Participation - how can Living Labs help create better solutions to existing challenges? Retrieved from https://www.adriatic-ionian.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Imagining-post-COVID-EUSAIR-Wim-De-Kinderen-5thEUSAIR-Forum.pdf
European Network of Living Labs. What are Living Labs. Retrieved from https://enoll.org/about-us/what-are-living-labs/
Habibipour, A., Ståhlbröst, A., Zalokar, S., & Vaittinen, I. (n.d.). Living Lab handbook for Urban Living Labs Developing Nature-Based Solutions. UNALAB. Retrieved from https://unalab.eu/system/files/2020-07/living-lab-handbook2020-07-09.pdf
Inmédiats. (2014, December). Living Lab. A new form of relationship with the public. Retrieved from https://www.cite-sciences.fr/fileadmin/fileadmin_CSI/fichiers/au-programme/lieux-ressources/carrefour-numerique/_documents/LivingLab/Living-Lab-English.pdf
Intelligent Light Sensing for Next Generation Smart Grids. Deliverable: D7. Living Lab handbook. LightSense. Retrieved from https://www.light-sense.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Deliverable-D7.1-Living-Lab-handbook.pdf
Leminen, S., Westerlund, M., & Nyström, A.-G. (2012, 09). Living Labs as Open-Innovation Networks. Technology Innovation Management Review, 2(9), 6-11. Retrieved from https://timreview.ca/article/602
Living labs: Cities and citizens at the core in the shaping the cities of the future. (2022, June 10). https://www.eiturbanmobility.eu/living-labs-cities-and-citizens-at-the-core-in-shaping-the-cities-of-the-future/
Nyström, A.-G., Leminen, S., Westerlund, M., & Kortelainen, M. (2014, 01). Actor roles and role patterns
influencing innovation in living labs. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(3), 483-495.
The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education. Living Labs – Opportunities, Benefits and Challenges of Different Models Globally. Retrieved from https://www.eauc.org.uk/living_labs_opportunities_benefits_and_challeng