3 - Production and commercialisation processes

3.7 - Generating Living Labs or real-time laboratories


Sometimes technologies are developed that never see the light of day, either due to lack of promotion or because they have failed to take into account the real needs of the market. One option that would avoid this problem, by adapting technology to the requirements of the market and, therefore, to commercial success, would be what is called Living Labs or real-time laboratories. These laboratories could be defined as "experimental environments which allow disparate agents with common interests to collaborate within a scientific or technological domain in the development and use of innovative ideas to solve current problems in an integrated manner".

The objective of a Living Lab is to allow the involvement of the end-user in testing prototypes, thereby leading to the creation of an Open Innovation community to achieve the commercialisation of technology and the valorisation of know-how. This means that R&D teams (especially in technological development) need to be part of the laboratory, so that in the case of a prototype being developed, the degree of maturity of the “demonstrated” technology is much greater.

The idea is to design spaces where the end user acquires an active role by explaining their needs, concerns and questions, whilst allowing open activities for university staff, companies, entrepreneurs, investors and society as a whole to make contact and test newly created technologies, or those in a process of development, so as to improve them or bring them into line with the real needs of the user.


Orschungszentrum Informatik (Karlsruhe, Germany)

The aim of the FZI is to support businesses and public entities in the process of IT-based innovation through market analysis, technological needs and methods for developing new industrial prototypes. The centre has four different research divisions: software engineering; information process engineering; production engineering and smart systems; and engineering of sensors and embedded systems. Its research teams are mostly made up of academics, the majority of whom come from the KIT (Karlsruher Institut für Technologie).

FZI currently operates three Living Labs. The FZI Living Lab for Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) focuses on researching and developing technology and organisational solutions which allow people to continue living independently in their own houses as long as possible during old age, or whilst suffering from health problems. It consists of a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, dining and living rooms, bedrooms and hallway, a living environment which is typical of older people, which is equipped with numerous sensors, actuators, and control elements. The new services and the prototypes being developed are tested and evaluated in realistic conditions with users and operators. The FZI Living Lab Automotive explores the conditions for comfort and safety in vehicles of the future in terms of electronic hardware and software. To test the new developments, the centre has a comprehensive simulator to test new electronic products for the dynamics and operation of an automobile. Finally, the FZI Living Lab mobileIT/SatNav analyses the feasibility of new developments in indoor positioning technologies, such as Wi-Fi wireless networks, UWB, Bluetooth and Zigbee technologies in conjunction with those for outdoor location, such as GPS or Galileo. It experiments on new uses for available mobile phone technology and the location of people with mobile devices such as PDAs, laptops, or mobile phones.

Media Lab del Massachusets Institute of Technology (EE.UU.)

The Media Lab is integrated into the MIT. Created in 1980, it is characterised by an unorthodox approach to the research of new technologies and their real impact on day-to-day living. There are numerous multidisciplinary research groups within the Media Lab, all characterised by a common culture of experience-based learning, and more than 350 projects are currently being developed across a wide range of areas, which are aimed at improving human adaptation to developing technologies. Projects range from the development of robots to care for the elderly or children, to the implementation of electric cars in the cities of the future. Before their release, products such as "Guitar Hero" or "Amazon Kindle" were tested and optimised at the Media Lab.

Implementation process

Agents necessary for implementation

This recommendation should be implemented by a group of companies with similar interests who wish to set up a virtual Living Lab whereby the end user is implicated in the process of R&D&i.

In this particular case, a large company or a group of companies with shared interests could also present a Living Lab initiative aimed at a specific sector which would require the participation of Local Government or a University for the project to be successful. We would also suggest a system of co-financing in order to establish common strategies and share resources.

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  1. http://www.fzi.de/index.php/en - Research Center for Information Technology (FZI).
  2. http://www.media.mit.edu/ - Media Lab del Massachusetts Institute of Technology.