Research Unit

Innovation Labs

The Research Unit Innovation Labs develops and supports open innovation processes for sustainable production and consumption patterns within business, politics and society.

The prosperity in society and decoupling of economic growth from resource depletion requires new products and services that increase the efficiency of resource use, reduce environmental impacts and contribute a high quality of life. The work of the Research Unit Innovation Labs strengthens the required knowledge base and accelerates relevant innovation processes.

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The aim of the Research Unit Innovation Labs is to accelerate socio-technical innovation processes, product-service and market development for sustainable production and consumption (SCP) as well as to promote the necessary competencies and education for sustainability. Our vision is a sustainable, resource-efficient economy and society in which products and services offer a high quality of life, are fairly produced globally or locally and protect the environment. The focus is therefore placed on a market-oriented design of the transformation of prosperity and consumption in the sense of the 8-ton society, in which only 8 natural resources per person and year are taken from the environment (calculation according to the MIPS concept). Further information can be found under the link below.

Therefore, the Research Unit analyses, supports and develops innovation processes for more sustainable products, services and business models, especially in companies and city districts. The focus is placed on a resource-efficient, socio-technical structuring of industry, consumption and prosperity transformation through innovative, resource-friendly product-service-designs.

As a fundamental approach the sustainable living lab approach is pursued, which aims at the stakeholder- and user-integrated development and design of products and services in a real-world environment. Living labs are innovation locations with a high degree of real-world relevance in which business models, products and services are developed and optimised from the idea to practical application in close cooperation with manufacturers, customers and other stakeholders in the value chain. The early consideration of user needs, context and application knowledge reduces development risks, accelerates the innovation and diffusion process and is thus an essential factor for acceptance and market success of sustainable products as well as business, consumption and prosperity models. Through socio-technical innovations, the design (social design, participative design, service design, experience design) of new resource- and energy-efficient solutions leads to a change of routines, to an increase of efficiency, consistency as well as sufficiency potentials and thereby to a sustainable transformation in production and consumption (transition design).

Key research question: How can companies and city districts be supported in shaping social transformation through the development and design of user-integrated, resource-efficient product service systems as well as business and wealth models?

Profile: Research Unit Innovation Labs
Thematic focus areas

The Research Unit addresses three central research topics:

1) Business models and product design (Living-Lab-as-a-Service)

  • User-integrated design in living labs – Conception and implementation (LL)
  • Business model development and digital market development (BMD)
  • Innovation Management for Sustainable Market Transformation (IM)

2) User concepts and wealth models

  • Design for social change – sustainable Product and Service Concepts (PSS)
  • Social innovation – good life in the neighbourhood (SI)
  • Activation of the residents of the neighbourhood (real-world laboratory)

3) Innovation policy and education

  • Living lab innovation infrastructure: Strategy and Network Development
  • Evaluation and development of value-added chain and company-related policy instruments (including standards and start-up support, e.g. in Climate-KIC)
  • Qualification and education concepts for sustainable development (ESD) (Transformative Literacy)


Here you can find projects of the Research Unit: