Urban living labs have become a popular phenomenon in today’s cities. The Living Lab approach would provide real life research with its multiple stakeholders in a co-innovating inclusive setting, crucial in creating metropolitan solutions with impact, that will be adopted smoothly and swiftly by all involved, and thus help achieve prosperous living environments that are more liveable, sustainable, resilient and just. With these ambitions, urban living labs are important links in the achievement of the goals of AMS Institute as well as the City of Amsterdam. But what exactly are urban living labs?
All over the world, the term “living lab” is being used to refer to a variety of local experimental projects of a participatory nature. Practitioners and scholars agree on the need for a more precise definition as a starting point for living lab research, an important in-between-step between fundamental research and society wide implementation.
“The aim of the research was to develop a methodology to facilitate systematic achievement of the living lab goals and ambitions in practice. How do urban living labs work? How can they contribute to a more sustainable environment? And how can you set up a successful urban living lab?”, explains Kris Steen, Research Fellow at AMS Institute who conducted the research together with AMS Principal Investigator Professor Ellen van Bueren.
Based on a literature review of living labs and urban living labs and a quick scan of 90 local innovation projects in the Amsterdam region, nine defining characteristics of urban living labs have been identified in four dimensions:
Also the core methodological components of urban living labs have been distilled from proposed living lab methodologies and process aspects repetitively referred to in urban living lab literature. In-depth case studies of the innovation processes of innovations that have emerged in living labs in Amsterdam have been conducted to research how urban living labs work in practice. This has led to conditions that have shown to be necessary for allowing successful emergence, implementation and replication of innovations in urban context.
“Our final living lab way of working is a mix of the theoretical methodological components of living labs, the conditions identified through case studies, and general recommendations and tips encountered throughout the research on how to tackle the various challenges associated with these phases. In our living lab way of working we explain the basics of a living lab approach, such as the essence of having a common ground and shared interests, and explain the implications this has for the required behaviour and mind-set of the actors,” says Kris Steen.
“The living lab way of working guides actors in what to think about in which stage of the process, while offering advice on elementary questions such as for example how to set up a project, how to formalise the made agreements, how to achieve inspiring co-creation sessions and how to manage an innovation collectively through a suitable legal organisational form. Finally, recommendations are made to ensure that the evaluation, refinement and dissemination activities in the living lab are conducted with success. This is necessary to allow an overarching learning mechanism in the larger urban innovation system by adoption of the formulated lessons in other urban contexts, realising the full potential of a living lab.”
The results of the research project are summarized in the publication ‘Urban Living Labs: A living lab way of working’. Which is available for downloading as of now.
A publication by AMS Principal Investigator Professor Ellen van Bueren and AMS Research Fellow Kris Steen
- Steen, K. & van Bueren, E. (2017).The Defining Characteristics of Urban Living Labs, Technology Innovation Management Review, 7(7): 21-33.