By Stig Franzén, Chalmers University of Technology
The European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL) defines Living Labs as a user-centred, open innovation ecosystems, based on a systematic user co-creation approach integrating research and innovation processes in real life communities and settings. The focus of the Living Lab concept is not only in the development process, but also enhances the interaction between all participating stakeholders such as research organisations, public partners, SMEs, private companies or ICT professionals. In fact, the participation of all the involved stakeholders is of vital importance to operate a Living Lab successfully (de Vries, et al 2017). This methodology of stakeholders’ integration can reduce risks in the development process of a new product, service or application. Open and unlimited cooperation among suppliers and potential customers is crucial including SMEs and larger firms.
The service development and the evaluation process of a Living Lab in a multi-contextual sphere instead of the traditional user-centric methodologies, constitute the core advantage of the concept. The novel aspect of the Living Lab approach is the evaluation in the daily life environment and the fact that all users are involved in all stages of the product lifecycle. As mentioned above, the Living Lab concept is primarily characterized by the fact that every stakeholder can take part in the development process of an innovative product or a service. Therefore, the researchers should use methods that allow interaction or co-creative approach between the potential consumer and the researcher during the whole development process (Feurstein et al., 2008).
For example, Living Labs claim to be a new way of working collaboratively between multi-disciplinary actors in real-life settings, which is different from test beds, demonstrators and so on (Leminen, 2015). One distinguishing feature is the awareness of users that they are actively involved as a partner throughout a co-creation process, rather than as an informant or participant at discrete stages of the development process This user awareness and co-creative focus distinguishes Living Labs from similar approaches within the areas of user-/human-centred or participatory design and from traditional research and innovation projects (Leminen, 2015).
Leminen et al. (2012) do not define a ‘best practice’, but instead provide a framework for ‘choosing’ a Living Lab type based on the purpose and outcomes one wishes to achieve, and the typical organisational form, available actions and expected lifespan. Four main actor roles (user, utiliser, enabler, provider) are usually present in all Living Labs, but the type will be determined by which party is the driving force, and the coordination (top-down or bottom-up) and participation approach used (Leminen, 2013. According to Leminen et al. (2012) the Living Labs are either enabler-driven (a funder or public authority); provider-driven (a university or consultant) or; user-driven (by users or communities of users). A user-driven Lab (i.e. not led by ICT service providers, politicians, public authorities, or arguably researchers) which engages the active, long-term participation of users has the greatest chance of success.
Nyström et al. (2014) further characterise the roles that users may take in Living Labs, namely as informant, tester, contributor or co-creator. Even if there are numerous existing methodologies, under the umbrella of user-centred or participatory design, where the user’s role is that of informant, tester or contributor) the involvement of the aware user as co-creator may be an indicator of a ‘best practice’ Living Lab.
Freight transportation may be viewed as a complex sociotechnical system, consisting a network of multi-disciplinary actors, and involving vehicle technology, ICT applications, regulation, user practices and markets, several special networks, such as infrastructure, supply and demand, and maintenance. Quak et al. (2016) consider freight partnerships the current best practice within freight transportation: freight partnerships provide a forum for knowledge sharing, discussion and collaboration between local public and private stakeholders, but seldom lead to tangible outcomes.
They argue that Living Labs may go beyond freight partnerships by enabling action and focusing on the implementation of solutions in their real environment. de Jong et al. (2016) emphasise that, due to the systemic nature of freight transportation, one should consider both its high-level strategic characteristics and lower-level tactical and operational aspects, which occur in the workplace and are often overlooked; these become visible and may thus be communicated between actors in Living Lab-style settings.
The complex socio-technical system a logistics supply chain constitutes is not easily addressed as the human beings involved have an agenda of their own in order to complete the tasks at hand. It is important that all relevant actors involved in the Living Lab to be studied has a good understanding of all the information flows made available as well as other actors on the scene.
Examples from industry
de Jong, G., Tavasszy, L., Bates, J., Grønland, S. E., Huber, S., Kleven, O. (2016). The issues in modelling freight transport at the national level. Case Studies on Transport Policy, 4(1), 13-21. Wiley, New York.
de Vries L., S. Franzén (2017): Living Labs: a forum for enabling co-creation between multi-disciplinary actors in the workplace? NES 2017 Conference proceedings.
Feurstein, K., Hesmer, A., Hribernik, K.A., Thoben, K.D. & Schumacher, J., 2008, ‘Living Labs – A New Development Strategy’, in J. Schumacher, European Living Labs: A New Approach for Human Centric Regional Innovation, pp. 1-14, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Berlin.
Leminen, S. (2013). Coordination and Participation in Living Lab Networks. Technology Innovation Management Review, 3(11), 5-14.
Leminen, S. (2015). Q&A. What Are Living Labs? Technology Innovation Management Review, 5(9), 29-35.
Leminen, S., Westerlund, M. and Nyström, A.-G. (2012). Living Labs as Open-Innovation Networks. Technology Innovation Management Review, 2(9), 6-11.
Nyström, A.-G., Leminen, S., Westerlund, M. and Kortelainen, M. (2014). Actor roles and role patterns influencing innovation in living labs. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(3), 483-495.
Quak, H., Lindholm, M., Tavasszy, L. and Browne, M. (2016). From Freight Partnerships to City Logistics Living Labs – Giving Meaning to the Elusive Concept of Living Labs. Transportation Research Procedia, 12, 461-473.