The role of Living Labs for a more collaborative and human approach to the future

According to Wikipedia, ”Living Labs” is a methodology in which citizens, residents and users are considered key players in research and innovation processes.

The concept of the Living Lab emerged in the late 1990s in the USA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), thanks to the work of three professors who created the first Living Lab managed by a research consortium.

In Europe, the development of Living Labs began in 2006, in the context of the Lisbon Strategy to boost employment. The Finnish presidency of the European Community launched the Living Labs Europe project, with the aim of encouraging and federating local initiatives by creating a European network of Living Labs (ENoLL).

In a previous article, we described the essence of a Living Lab, its purpose and how it works.

Today, Living Labs are increasingly recognized worldwide as the best tools for open innovation.

1st Canadian Living Labs Summit

On November 6 and 7, the 1st Canadian Living Labs Summit was held, co-organized by ENoLL (European Network of Living Labs), McGill University, Université de Montréal, the Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire en réadaptation du Montréal métropolitain (CRIR) and the Réseau provincial de recherche en adaptation-réadaptation (REPAR).

Living labs in all kinds of fields from all over Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Quebec) were present, as well as a few from across the Atlantic (UK, Greece). Of course, the TransMedTech Institute was also there. While all shared a common vision of bringing all stakeholders to the table to co-create a project, it was an opportunity to learn more about the real issues of a Living Lab, and to discuss the challenges and strategies of collaboration on a local, national and international scale.

Following a presentation by Evdokimos Konstantinidis, President of ENoLL, on the theme: When and why use Living Lab methodology? What is ENoLL? was followed by a round-table discussion on the Canadian approach, featuring a number of experts.

Then, various Living Labs from all horizons: education, health, agriculture, arts and culture, etc., presented their work.

As a methodology, at their core, the teams bring together individuals and organizations from academia, the community and the public, government and private sectors.

As a result, everyone works together with an intersectional vision and a common mission, which is: user-centered innovation, developed collaboratively in a real-life context. The day ended with a round-table discussion on: Living Labs within universities, research centers and networks, to clarify the role of research in living labs.

Harmonization of the Living Labs

To kick off Day 2, Despoina Petsani working on the VITALISE projetc, talked about the importance of harmonizing Living Labs to facilitate and increase common understanding and communication between the various players within Living Lab communities and all those who come into contact with Living Labs.

What do they have in common? More than a tool, it’s the community’s commitment that counts above all.

Eva Kehayia from CRIR then explained the relevance of having a common lexicon for all Living Labs, a project she is currently working on.

“Our power is great”,
said Éric Racine, Director, Unité de recherche en éthique pragmatique de la santé, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) É-LABO

Other presentations followed, and to conclude, a round-table discussion on the Reality of Living Labs, their challenges, their needs, their desires and the means to successfully conduct research in a living laboratory.

Among the various challenges encountered, we noted the importance of building trust among all stakeholders, understanding the added value for all, towards a major change, and also of adopting a common language. Also discussed were the issues of the funding and the sustainability of Living Labs over time, and the importance of being creative to be more inclusive.

When asked to conclude, what would be their greatest desire for the future of Living Labs, the panelists replied:

  • sharing methodologies;
  • sharing stories to grow from each other’s learning;
  • building a community of practice;
  • and, of course, the need to be able to count on financial partners.

This 1st Summit was a great success, and everyone left with the desire to have more opportunities like this, more networking activities, to share experiences, ask questions and exchange best practices.

A lot of energy and connections were made over those two days, with a strong interest to collaborate to enable the community to continue to grow and develop.

The benefits of the Living Lab approach are undeniable:

  • speed up adoption;
  • increase the relevance of research;
  • increase network commitment and resilience;
  • more equity.

They are human-centered facilitators with a positive impact.

The sustainability of Living Labs is essential, because it’s a way of working that facilitates innovation and can be applied to many fields.

“Our power is great,” said Éric Racine, Director, Unité de recherche en éthique pragmatique de la santé, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) É-LABO

Source :
Géraldine Dumesnil
Communications Services, Institut TransMedTech
geraldine.dumesnil@polymtl.ca