The Green Economy concept promotes investments in sustainability innovations as leverage for a low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive economy. At the same time, innovation actors face the challenge to address the dynamic and complexity of social changes as well as the innovation process.
Several studies show the large resource efficiency potential of innovations, especially in the early stages of the innovation process. However, the effectiveness of such sustainability innovations is limited by two sets of problems: (1) Firstly, many innovations with high sustainability potential fail because of a insufficient market acceptance and (2) secondly, they do not meet the initial expectations of their sustainability impact because of unexpected patterns in the actual usage (so-called rebound effect). Living Labs are research and innovation platforms, which address real-world utilisation processes in early stages of the innovation process. They thereby open perspectives for the improvement of market acceptance and the consideration of rebound effects in innovation processes. A Living Lab consists of four main activities:
(1) Execution of context and user studies and determination of cultural, legal, technical and market-specific boundary conditions;
(2) the co-creation of innovations, which involve user and developer;
(3) Execution of experiments within the scope of utilisation scenarios;
(4) the evaluation of products and services in real-world environments (see www.openlivinglabs.eu).
Living Labs differ from pure "laboratories of reality", because innovations are not immediately implemented in the real world on a large scale, but they are tested and developed in a small-scale real-world laboratory beforehand. Thus, they reduce liability risks and problems of maintaining the service during the large-scale implementation and contribute to the overall confidence in innovation processes.
A large potential for the development of sustainable markets in the future is attributed to the Living Lab infrastructure in Germany. Therefore, the R&D project INNOLAB pursues the following objectives:
The Wuppertal Institute is coordinating the entire project and is responsible for Project Part 1 "Methods and business models for sustainable product-service-systems".