Understanding Living Labs – A journey of discovery by Phil Donaldson

I started this journey on living labs through the CRC for Low Carbon Living and the attraction of end users being the critical part of the value proposition for signing up to the CRC and the establishment of  the Adelaide Living Lab. My role at the time was Director of Sustainability at Renewal SA. We gathered industry to understand what the issues where from the perspective of low carbon development what were the the barriers and the opportunities as such to start to articulate the type of research that would be beneficial to help the development industry drive a low carbon built form.

As part of the journey we applied and were accepted into the 8th wave of the European Network of Living Labs. A great achievement  which from my perspective could provide long term benefits to all stakeholders actors and enablers in the lab experience. I took on the role of a project leader, manager and enabler of the lab experience working with University staff and I must admit it was harder than I anticipated.

So I read reports, talked to people went to Amsterdam and Brussels, spent time with the CE of  ENOLL in Helsinki Jarmo Eskelinen, visited living labs in brussels, Amsterdam attended  the Community and Sustainability partnership conference in Brussels, went to the Amsterdam ENOLL summer school in 2014. At that event representing the Adelaide Living Lab and the CRC for Low Carbon Living I was invited to talk at the ENOLL council meeting and a panel on why would Adelaide – Australia want to be involved in the ENOLL network and how would a global network operate. Gareth and I were at the Summer school together and we put together the Australian perspective.

Gareth and I met virtually through an introduction from Stephen White program lead on Living LAbs in the CRC for Low Carbon Living when I discussed the opportunity to have a national network and we were on the same page – Gareth  then introduced me to Amanda, in Melbourne and I met Sonja from Swinburne and Rosa from RMIT in Amsterdam. As always it starts with a conversation and then has just grown from concept to reality.

In 2015 an invite went out to be part of the evaluation panel for the next wave of Living Labs on which I applied and was accepted to participate. My reason were 3 fold: to obtain broader understanding of living labs through meeting with experts and discussing the various applications; to experience and evaluation process for Living Labs to inform the Australian Network process; and, to establish Australia’s credentials in the world living lab community.

Gareth, Amanda and I had constant contact via skype exploring the formation of the network and establishing living labs in our areas. Amanda and I then went to Istanbul with the Australian Living Lab Network in its infancy and we presented on emerging themes of living labs in Australia.

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