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Brussels Tips #9

Living Labs: Smart Cities in progress..

Europe is making way for the strong bottom-up push coming from territorial clusters engaged in innovation for the urban life quality improvement. They are called Living Labs!

They take the form of territorial networks linking public administrations, universities,  research centres and small and medium enterprises engaged in the co-creation and testing of innovative and experimental smart products and services for the city. There is no limit in the application fields: they can be innovative service for culture, health, education, egovernment, mobility, social issues…The fundamental unifying factor is that citizens are called to interact and participate to the creation process itself.

We got in touch with ENoLL, the European Network of Living Labs, during the great conference held in Mechelen (North Brussels) on past 22/23 May: “Smart Citizens in Smart Cities. User-driven Open Innovation Ecosystems to go really cross-border”. The conference took place in the fascinating Lamot Congress Centre, former factory turned into a contemporary venue for events and networking.

The event has been a showcase of the most cutting-edge Living Labs on going experiences in Europe. Some examples?

The Ghent Living Lab is an open collaborative network led by the City which is focusing on e-paricipation, e-government, e-inclusion and digital green. One on going project is called idrops - social innovation LAB, an open call for innovative solutions to tackle poverty, in the wake of digital experiments as P.I.N.G. (poverty is not a game). AppsforGhent was instead an hackaton event that involved teams of students, hackers, researchers and policy-makers in the ideation of Mobile Applications for the city. The contest awarded the best three apps and supported their realisation.

We can not avoid mentioning Barcelona as one of the smartest cities worldwide. During the conference, Artur Serra, ENoLL Council Member and Deputy Director of i2cat Foundation, presented the current steps that the Catalan Capital is making in the Smart City process. Barcelona is participating to 6 of the 15 on going European projects on Smart Cities and was recently nominated the Mobile World Capital 2012/2018. The Citilab experience is a mix between a training centre, a research centre and an incubator for business and social initiatives focused on citizenship engagement. Among the many projects developed within the Citilab context, Seniorlab is experimenting new ways to involve older people in the Knowledge Society, providing them with the necessary tools to conceive, design and develop their own projects.

Also Italy rates relevant Living Labs experiences, both on metropolitan and regional base: Trentino as a Lab is a good example of a strong network between public administration and private businesses, while the Leaning Lab in Pisa has a more indipendent connotation. It is a free association of creative people just devoted to problem solving through a crowdsourcing platform.

How will Bologna position itself in the wide Living Labs universe?

A BAM! cultural spy from Brussels

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