ROCKs living lab in Eindhoven

  • culture
  • economy
  • knowledge society

The tech savvy city of Eindhoven hosted the second work-shadowing visit of ROCK, which focused on the living lab approach to urban innovation, mastered by the city. The three ROCK replicator cities Bologna, Lisbon and Skopje got inspired by this method of trial and error and got concrete recommendations and tips on how to transfer Eindhoven's good practices to their local context.

Work shadowing is a method to learn and exchange professional experience and knowledge about good practice and initiatives in a role model city. The three ROCK replicator cities spend a period of time with experts from Eindhoven, observing what they do in their professional role, and how. The objective is to get concrete recommendations and tips on how to transfer good practices to another local context.

Eindhoven suffered a lot from the bankruptcy of its main employer, the electronics company Philips, which left its hometown in the 2000s. Eindhoven was renouned as an industrial place, more than as a real city, at the time, but the city capitalised on its legacy and used it for its renaissance.

Transforming the former Philips factories into a creative and cultural quarter made Eindhoven a major technological and industrial hub. StrijpS is now considered an urban rejuvenation success story, and the Brainport region surrounding Eindhoven one of the most innovative regions worldwide.

The main challenge for Eindhoven at the time was to position itself as a location with potential in the creativity and innovation sectors. To do so, the city used the brains of its citizens! Eindhoven has mastered the living approach to innovation, where real life situations are tested as part of the design process. But what are living labs exactly? According to the European Network of Living Labs , “Living Labs (LLs) are defined as user-centred, open innovation ecosystems based on systematic user co-creation approach, integrating research and innovation processes in real life communities and settings.”

LLs operate as test-bed platforms between municipalities and citizens, research institutes, business and tech companies, to co-create, design and prototype either products or services. LLs have common elements but multiple different implementations and can be considered as an innovative approach to governance.

In Eindhoven, this approach to LLs was for instance used in the regeneration process of the NRE-area, where the former gas-supply factories of Eindhoven were located. The redevelopment of this area is now managed in an organic way, with as little legislation as possible, and in strong cooperation with the end-users (i.e. future residents of the area). Another LL was the one implemented on Strijp-S to foster a different approach to mobility: Mobility-S’s objective is to move from simply delivering the number of parking spaces based on existing normative numbers, to a more detailed assessment of the needs for parking spaces, using the LL approach to define these needs and test different solutions.

Replicator cities Bologna, Lisbon and Skopje got inspired by this method of trial and error: cities are labs, and therefore can apply the same principles as in any start-up company when it comes to testing new tools and initiatives.

Some of the visit’s lessons are:

  • From a triple helix to a quadruple helix management structure, all partners have something to add to the discussion, and trusting the end-users is key;
  • Do not hesitate to downsize your projects: as for any technological tool, better to test it on a small scale to avoid large negative effects;
  • Technology can be frightening as well: involve citizens from the start and make them see what the benefits are for them and their communities.

The next stop for ROCK travellers will be in Lyon in December. Stay tuned!