Mobility Living Labs

EIT Urban Mobility living labs

EIT Urban Mobility Living labs

Living labs enable structuring user interaction by keeping users continuously involved in making better products and services while their expectations are continuously monitored and reflected upon in a systematic process. At EIT Urban Mobility living labs are also instrumental for the purpose of testing, demonstrating, and piloting new user-centred solutions.

What are living labs?

Living labs have become a well-known concept used mainly in the context of collaborative innovation to solve complex societal challenges. Since its inception back in the 1980s, living labs have spread over Europe in various waves, first focusing on new ICT tools but later also extending to other fields, such as sustainable energy, healthcare, safety, and urban mobility. Living labs are defined as “user-centred, open innovation ecosystems based on systematic user co-creation approach, integrating research and innovation processes in real life communities and settings” (ENoLL, 2013). Living labs put together citizens, academia, companies, cities and regions for joint value co-creation, rapid prototyping, and/or validation to scale-up innovation.

The five key elements of a living lab are:

Real-life environment:

Experiments in living labs usually take place in an uncontrolled real-life setting, in the daily environment of their end-users, which can have a scale of a house, a street, a neighbourhood, but also a city or a travel corridor.

Triple/quadruple helix stakeholder participation:

A living lab requires the active engagement of representatives from public authorities (e.g., local/ regional/ national governments), industry (e.g., startups, SMEs, etc.), academia (e.g., universities and research institutes) and civil society (e.g. citizens) within one innovation ecosystem. In a quadruple helix cooperation model, the focus is shifted from expert-driven innovation towards user-centric innovation.

Co-creation:

Co-creation aims at aligning the objectives of the parties involved enhancing the participation of the end-users in the development of the final products and services. In this cooperative process the involved stakeholders, and particularly the end-users, can influence the experimentation from its ideation phase, increasing their acceptance of the developed innovation and, thus, the chances of their uptake.

Active end-user involvement:

In a living lab environment, end-users meet in real life contexts and share experiences, while envisioning their own future. Living Labs consider citizens not only as users or consumers in a narrow sense, but as direct contributors to or co-creators of new products and services. Involving end-users in different stages of the innovation process and fostering sustained exchanges between different stakeholders have proved to be a differentiating factor in an increasingly competitive world.

Multi-method approach:

A living lab enhances the involvement of multidisciplinary competences, encouraging an unprecedented combination of skills, people, equipment, companies, settings, etc.

At local level, living labs can offer cities the opportunity to address their challenges in close cooperation with a diverse range of stakeholders and actors from within their local mobility ecosystem thus increasing the uptake of innovative solutions and services.

The term living lab is often used interchangeably with other similar approaches with some kind of participatory nature such as:

  • Test Beds offer access to physical facilities, capabilities and services required for the development, testing and upscaling of newproducts and services (usually in controlled environments).
  • The risks associated with real-life experimentation environments are controlled by designing test bed settings which bear a resemblance to science laboratories.
  • Pilots carried out in a demonstration site follow a linear and predetermined development, focusing mainly in testing a new product or service in an operational environment.
  • Pilots are designed by experts and are usually focused on validation and/or evaluation of new products and services.
  • Living labs are distinguished by the extent of end-user involvement and activities performed.
  • Living labs focus on ideation, co-creation, and validation activities with the end-users.
  • Multi-stakeholders are involved and the activities in a living lab have a medium to long term orientation.

However, a living lab approach differs in its nature because it not only focuses on the technical aspects of innovation, but rather on the end-user (needs, requirements, acceptance, etc.), business models, and policy issues.

Connect with us to learn more about how we work with local authorities, public agencies, research institutes,
business, and innovators to address socially impactful issues facing our cities by testing and implementing innovative technologies and ideas.

Contact details

City Club and Living Labs

Jordi Casas Juan, Living Labs Officer
  jordi.casasjuan@eiturbanmobility.eu