A Living Lab enables collaboration between a range of stakeholders at local, national or international level to address various challenges, often linked with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. A key feature of a Living Lab is the co-creation and live-testing approach to address local and global challenges. Stakeholders involved define the project together and co-create results and outputs from which they all benefit. Living Labs have been established across the world and particularly in Europe during the past decade.
The University of Surrey Living Lab initiative was launched in November 2019 to explore and trial the living lab approach at the University, to develop networks and partnerships within the University and with community partners and businesses, and to integrate sustainability into planned university developments.
Living Lab at University of Surrey
Our Living Lab approach supports the University’s mission to transform lives and shape the world for a better future by partnering with students, governments, businesses, alumni and local communities.
The initiative also supports and aligns with the following:
- Our Corporate strategy - Forward thinking. And doing
- Our Research and Innovation strategy
- Research themes of sustainability, technology in society, urban living and life-long health
- The work of the Institute for Sustainability
- Our Net Zero Carbon Plan
- Our work to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Our Living Lab approach offers a structure and framework within which to deliver many elements of these strategies through its focus on collaborative working and applying current research and innovation to address real-world issues.
Benefits of the living lab approach
Used by many universities and other organisations, the living lab approach to research and innovation can deliver benefits to all parties involved:
- Students can access opportunities to get real research experience and work across a wide range of subjects and departments, beyond their course and own department, gaining new skills, broadening knowledge and enhancing their employability
- Academics can collaborate on genuinely cross disciplinary research projects and partner with a wide range of organisations including businesses, public sector organisations and community groups
- Businesses can work with University experts to access expert knowledge, cutting-edge resources and additional funding and progress along their sustainability journey
- Public Sector Organisations can access the latest thinking in sustainability interventions and behaviour change, co-create research projects that are bespoke for the region or local area and use the University as a testbed to identify impactful sustainable solutions
- Community and Climate Action Groups can engage with their community using approaches tested across the UK and worldwide and co-create research projects with local experts to better address the local challenges and understand opportunities for climate change mitigation.
Key achievements to date
These grants have been awarded to an exciting range of university led collaborative research projects, mapping to areas such as environmental behaviour, air quality, electric vehicle charging, healthcare, community regeneration and retail.
Many of these are in collaboration with partners including Guildford Environment Forum, Royal Surrey County Hospital, Beanstalk Social Ltd (SME) and Surrey Research Park start-up IPFT.
The Surrey Energy Partnership was launched at the Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Surrey event in November 2019. Its vision is ‘to accelerate the transition to clean, fair and sustainable energy across Surrey and beyond’.
With a current membership of around 50 local organisations, and a focus on delivering projects and action, the Surrey Energy Partnership is an open and collaborative network for all organisations with an interest in (and impact on) clean, fair and sustainable energy.
A university networking group was set up with over 150 academics, students and professional staff.