Participation supported by electronic tools is not just limited to political topics – this has been stated in relation to eParticipation in many discussions. Keeping this in mind the Living Lab approach which aims at involving users and stakeholders into research and development processes by using innovative often time’s electronic ways of organising cooperation is a close cousin of eParticipation. Yesterday I visited the Living Labs Information Day held by the European Commission in Brussels. This event gave me an overview of the LL activity in Europe and the possibilities arising from this trend for player from the eParticipation field.
The projects presented at this event ranged from research in wearable computing involving test sites in the Aerospace, Construction and Automobile industry (wearIT@work) to projects working on environmental friendly lighting in urban areas and different developers of ICT tools sets to making working in a Living Lab context easier. Almost all research and innovation field were present at the event and could make a convincing case that the LL approach is significantly helping them to produce innovation in their field. Besides the variety of participants the number of ca. 250 also spoke to the importance of this approach. In the European Network of Living Labs alone more than 100 LL are involved. The EC also supports this community using different programmes but the representatives where clear that the EC´s job is to support the cross border aspects and not the local or regional development.
The complexity of LL project is very high as dozens and more stakeholders have to be involved in a multi-step development process. The deep experience of the eParticipation community to organise complex communication processes and to work out conflicts in these processes could be of great help to the many different Living Labs active in Europe. It therefore is useful to build contacts into the LL community and try to find possibilities to gain advantages from each other. On concrete step in this direction could be to look for potential partners for future project proposals to the European Commission in that community.