Living Laboratories offer a welcome approach for change management and knowledge co-creation to influence sustainable futures. While living labs take many forms and are defined in different ways, they always reflect an interest in open research environments that explore society-science interfaces in real time.
Living Laboratories also share certain key characteristics. They contribute to urban transformation, experiments are a core research method; transdisciplinarity is a fundamental research mode; long-term orientation, scalability, and transferability of results are core aims; and learning through real-time reflexivity is a key objective.
The purpose of living laboratories is thus to experiment with novel processes and practices that would be otherwise impossible in conventional urban settings and to carefully monitor the social and physical impacts of these process experiments to provide a robust, transferable, knowledge base for further learning.
In addition to addressing specific local challenges, such as improving the energy efficiency of building operations or promoting less polluting transport choices, living laboratories can serve as platforms for visioning processes to define needs, what progress means, and how to realize it, with the power to stimulate changes beyond their boundaries.
As such, living laboratories are a key mechanism through which universities can contribute to a wider societal transition to sustainability.