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The living lab lives … because of the people!

It was the second day of OpenLivingLab Days 2019, organized by the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). More than 400 participants from over 30 countries came to Greece to join the annual gathering of those who believe that collaboration in co-creating solutions for a better, more sustainable, human and nature-friendly tomorrow is the way forward. As manager of the living lab at the InnoRenew CoE, I found myself thinking about all of the concepts that were part of everyday conversation at this conference – quadruple helix, co-creation, citizen science, open innovation, participatory research and, of course, living labs. It is interesting how we in the living lab community use these terms daily but, to this day, continue to operate with different definitions, notions and ideas about them. So, where does Living Lab InnoRenew grow in this forest of stories, ideas, methodologies and approaches?


Trees as an inspiration for our work

Trees are not solitary. They are part of a system dubbed the “wood wide web”, connected by fungal (mycorrhizal) networks, similar to the way people are connected through the world wide web. These networks allow different species of trees and plants to create a thriving and cooperative community. At Living Lab InnoRenew, we are inspired by these mycorrhizal networks. We bring together different actors who, in their fields of expertise, contribute to the sustainable development of our built environment.  The needs and pursuits of our members are at the heart of our collaborative efforts to co-create new ideas and solutions.  Our joint actions are based on trust and cooperation. These are the key values that guide us in the process of discovery, design and validation of new ideas, concepts and solutions, which are all based on a common understanding of the importance of renewable materials for a human and nature-friendly sustainable future.

Our members understand that open innovation is key to their success. Living Lab InnoRenew offers real and virtual space that allows members to work as cooperators rather than competitors, sharing knowledge, information, experience and resources such as equipment, financial burdens, and human capital.


Living Lab InnoRenew in action

Living Lab InnoRenew acts as an international science, industry, policy and civil society hub and an innovation platform that facilitates discussion on the development, testing and implementation of creative and innovative ideas, concepts and policies addressing challenges of the wood-based value chain and its role in a circular economy. Depending on their status (gold, silver or associate), we offer our members a variety of activities and services, including workshops to jointly discuss the challenges facing our members, organizing thematic focus groups based on the needs of each group and providing training and education opportunities tailored to the specific needs of a particular living lab member.

We believe that designing and implementing the best and most innovative solutions requires the inclusion of different views and needs. That is why co-creation of ideas and participation of different actors in the research process is necessary. Of course, you might think. But, in our everyday life managed through busy schedules, we often forget this. Living Lab InnoRenew, therefore, is actively involved within the InnoRenew CoE and works with our researchers in the search for best ways to involve end users of our technologies and solutions (e.g., industry, elderly adult population, school children) into the research process itself, starting in the ideation phase and continuing through concept design, testing and implementation.


A look into the future

Our vision is to become an internationally recognized innovation platform for the co-creation of sustainable solutions based on the use of renewable resources in the built environment.  Autumn is the right time to take further steps in this direction. We will start locally, with our first event in the Future Challenges cycle, titled How to make Slovenia sustainable with renewable materials? We will continue with an open call to our members to propose projects to address some common challenges and thus co-create the Living Lab InnoRenew 2020 program.


We are always open for new partnerships

At Living Lab InnoRenew, we believe in the importance of disseminating knowledge and collaborating in the research and innovation process to pursue our common endeavor of developing and promoting a circular economy. We bring together more than 110 like-minded members, currently from 28 countries. They come from companies, universities, research institutes, municipalities, regional development agencies, ministries, industrial and research associations, technology platforms and clusters. Some of our members are also international organizations and interested individuals. Every new member who would like to search for solutions for their own or our common challenges enriches us and helps us develop into a stronger community.  That is why we are always open for new partnerships, which make our community a living community, a living lab.

Kim Turk Mehes,
Living Lab InnoRenew manager and policy consultant