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Are university “living labs” able to deliver sustainable outcomes? A case-based appraisal of Deakin University, Australia
journal contributionposted on 2022-01-01, 00:00 authored by Igor MartekIgor Martek, M R Hosseini, S Durdyev, M Arashpour, D J Edwards
Universities have recognized their rich endowments in research, academic skills and facilities, as uniquely suited to finding “green” solutions. Moreover, the campus setting itself presents as a microcosm of greater society through which to investigate and test innovations. Thus, the “living lab” was born, a means of coupling sufficient resources and active stakeholders in the pursuit of practical, sustainable solutions. Much of the work to date, however, remains piecemeal, small-scale and disparate. This study aims to propose that the work of such labs must ultimately be directed, coordinated and integrated under a “university sustainability office,” if they are to be ultimately effective.
The research approach is twofold. In the first instance, a literature review charting the history and progress of living labs is reported, with emphasis of the university context. Second, a case study appraisal of Deakin University’s initiatives in adopting and promoting sustainability through the living lab framework is undertaken.
A main finding of this paper is that current efforts remain piecemeal and peripheral. If the apparent ambiguity regarding commitment is to be overcome, Deakin University should adopt measures as adopted by peer leaders in the field. Specifically, the setting up of a centralizing sustainability function bestowed with the capacity to coordinate university-wide living lab efforts, and at such a scale that substantial benefits transferable to greater society is generated.
This paper stands out among previous studies in the field through facilitating a transition to living lab for other universities, where findings facilitate that progress and consider how the lessons learnt might inform the further evolution of university living lab initiatives.