- Meeting of Living Labs and SMEs in Rome: cases of successful cost-effective collaboration and SMEs Living Labs
- Living labs reduce costs for technology companies and high R & D
- In Spain, the pioneer is ValueCreation
- Still to be improved: interim financing between the prototype and test
On 6 and 7 December 6th and 7th ESOCE presented in Rome several cases of commercial success for SMEs working with living labs, along with several similar initiatives developed by the network Apollon.
The meeting involved the European Space Agency and the Greek Ministry of Agriculture, as entities that use living labs. Three companies that had won the innovation GNSS Galileo prize could make show their prototypes to the attending living labs for their testing in real environments.
One of the problems encountered by the participating SMEs is the difficulty in financing the testing phase with users in real situations until the first prototypes reach the market. This “Valley of Death” as defined in the meeting by Professor Bernhard Katzy, director of the prestigious CETIM, is a risk identified by the European Union, which considers refocusing a part of research funds to the testing with users.
A reality on the rise
Living labs are actually living on the rise: More than 200 of them exist in Europe and they are expanding to Asia and emerging economies like Brazil, but also to Africa. In Spain there are over 40. They are devoted to technology, energy, environment, citizenship, entrpreneurship, rural development…
In a living lab future is tested. A Living Lab is an innovation space where real products and services, but also real policy innovations can be tested in real situations with real people in real contexts
This is particularly interesting for technological and industrial companies, where sometimes between 50% and 80% of the products and services developed by classical R & D fail to reach the market.
By placing the user at the center of innovation living labs reduce time to market, create greater acceptance of products and services and increase the likelihood of success on the market. They also allow in-depth information to niches not reached by traditional market research, due to their social complexity, or because they have not yet been created (such as the case of biotech spin offs).
The living labs were born at companies like Nokia and institutions like the MIT and have been strongly supported by the European Union since 2006 when it created the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). However, as for large corporations they are a clear business, this has not been so for SMEs. Until now many had the difficulty generating economic and employment impact out of their innovation.
This issue is so crucial in these times of crisis that the European Union only funds research projects involving SMEs, user engagement and including a serious business plan as a result.
ValueCreation, a pioneer in Spain
In Spain, the pioneer in the creation of Living Labs is undoubtedly ValueCreation. The company’s team has participated in the implementation of 6 profitable living labs to their member companies and institutions. Among them SeniorLab, awarded the Princess Cristina 2010 Prize 2010 and finalist of the Innovation Award of the German Chamber of Commerce. Other interesting living labs were several SMEs innovation networks oriented to commercial and organizational practices in Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura and Catalonia.
ValueCreation is linked through its collaboration with Citilab with to 212 ENOLL living labs, which means a potential of 100,000 users europewide. As an embedded company into the Madrid Scientific park, it has access to the best research and innovation teams in Spain for living lab projects.