Over 50% of the global population lives in cities, and those cities all share the same pressing challenge: how can they provide economic prosperity and social cohesion in a sustainable way?
One way of finding answers to that question is urban living labs, a type of testbed where social and technical innovations are tested in real time in an urban setting.
"Urban living labs are a new form of governing cities," explains Kes McCormick, associate professor at Lund University in Sweden. "They are able to fast-track innovation and sustainability in unique ways that put evolving ideas directly into action".
Urban living labs are popping up across the globe as a means through which public and private actors are testing innovations in building, transport and energy systems, among other things.
"The core idea is that urban sites can provide a learning arena within which co-creation of innovations can be pursued among multiple actors," explains Harriet Bulkeley, professor at Durham University. "Urban living labs are often characterised by partnerships between the public and private sectors, and are forms of urban governance where universities can play a key and direct role."
Yet despite the experimentation taking place on the ground, there is a lack of systematic learning and international comparison about the impact and effectiveness of urban living labs.
An important question is how good practice can be scaled up and translated to different contexts to achieve transformative change.
To that end, Urban Living Labs - Experimenting with City Futures brings together leading international researchers within a systematic comparative framework for evaluating the design, practices and processes of urban living labs.
"The time to evaluate what we have learned is now. We need these new insights into the governance of urban sustainability so we can improve the next generation of urban living labs - in order to realise their potential", concludes Kes McCormick.
Project website: http://www.