Second wave of Living Labs launched

The second wave of the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL) has been launched at a Portuguese Presidency event in Brussels, bringing the total number of ENoLL members to 51.

The Living Labs concept is designed to boost innovation by ensuring that all stakeholders, including end-users, are involved throughout the research and development process. As one conference
participant explained to CORDIS News, involving end-users makes the initial stages of product or service development more challenging, as users communicate their wishes and researchers explain
what is technically or logistically possible. However, this early involvement of end users saves time later on in the process as the researchers have a better understanding of what the user
wants and expects.

This last point is important. As Kari Mikkelä of ENoLL Nordic pointed out, 70% to 80% of new product and services that fail do not fail because of a lack of advanced technologies, but
because of a failure to understand users’ needs.

The first wave of Living Labs was launched a year ago by the Finnish Presidency of the EU Council. Finland is home to seven European Living Labs, more than any other country, and its companies,
research organisations, public authorities and citizens appear to have wholeheartedly embraced the Living Labs concept.

According to Mr Mikkelä, companies like testing their products in the Nordic countries ‘because the citizens are keen to test and elaborate with new products and services’.

Mobile phone giant Nokia has been working with Living Labs since the early 2000s. Veli-Pekka Niitamo is the company’s Director of mWork Research and Chair of European Living Labs’ product
portfolio team. Asked what advice he would give to new Living Lab projects, he commented that Nokia’s early attempts at ‘livinglabbing’ were too corporate and projects should aim to be
user-driven.

‘We realised that there has to be a completely open platform for new service creation where the big industry players should not be the determinants or even the investors in such platforms,
because we truly wanted to learn the user-centric view on service and product creation,’ he told CORDIS News.

One of the newly-approved Living Labs is the Laurea Living Lab, which is centred around Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland. Sari Sarlio-Siintola is a participant in the Laurea
Living Lab, and she is clear about her hopes for the project.

‘First, this is a way of learning best practices concerning methods, tools and business models of living labs,’ she told CORDIS News. ‘Secondly it is an opportunity to find European cooperation
possibilities in our projects, and thirdly it is a channel for our company to get into the European market.’

Looking to the future, there is a widespread hope that the Slovenian Presidency of the EU will launch the third wave of European Living Labs during the first half of next year. The country is
an enthusiastic supporter of the concept and has more Living Labs than any of the other newer Member States.

Meanwhile, there is growing international interest in the concept, notably within the rapidly growing Asian economies. Mr Niitamo believes that China in particular has the capability to invest
in such platforms and make them a reality.

‘The amount of potential to scale the Chinese market is so huge, and the potential to work with the public sector there is so huge, that not only Nokia but all the players of the European
Living Labs should exploit that potential,’ he said.

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