Living Lab Vorarlberg
Sustainable product development is characterized by shortening product life cycles. The period a product can be placed on the market profitably, has halved since the last 20 years. Companies are forced to steadily innovate new products to survive on the market. A successful product development is key to success for a sustainable presence on the market for the companies. Only one out of four products are profitable on the market. Several studies have shown that the alignment on market- as well as customer needs is one of the most important success factors for product development. In practice this requirement is neglected by many companies which lead to products on the market which are not accepted by the customers.
The primary goal of the basic study "Living Lab Vorarlberg" is to adapt the Living Lab approach, which was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to the sustainable product development.
- Definition of a Living Lab methodology for sustainable product development with the focus on the contribution of the Living Lab approach to the sustainable product development.
- Analysis of Information- and Communication technologies (ICT) to support the implementation of a Living Lab in the region of Vorarlberg including the development of a technology roadmap and a technology radar
- Analysis of the applicability of the Living Lab methodology in the region on the basis on a survey with companies in Vorarlberg.
- Industrial and political validation of the Living Lab concept through public events and bilateral discussions.
Originally Living Labs were developed to enable the customer involvement into the architectural design process. Test persons, living in real world environments, are observed how they interact with new technologies. The results of the observations give information about the design process of accommodation units for providing an ideal environment for the customer. In Europe the Living Lab approach has been adapted to the Information- and Communication branch in recent years. Several initiatives and companies (e.g. Nokia, Ericsson, Vodafone, etc.) implement the notion of Living Labs in their development activities.
An analysis of the existing Living Lab definitions allows a deduction of four general attributes of a Living Lab. These attributes are the "user as co-creator" approach, special methods for customer (user) integration over the whole innovation process as well as the technological infrastructure enabling the customer (user) involvement. The fourth attribute of a Living Lab is the local focus. Living Labs are taking into account regional and social specifics. So they support regional innovations. Additionally to these general attributes, a Living Lab for sustainable product development exhibits sustainability as a fifth attribute.
The focus of a Living Lab for sustainable product development differs from the existing definitions as companies are central.
In the focus of a Living Lab for sustainable product development is a company (e.b. SME or a big company). The company provides a specific technological and organizational infrastructure. For customer integration with ICT-based methods this is an important aspect. Moreover the company has a defined innovation process.
Due to the alignment of the specific companies the Living Lab can either focus on the Business-to-Business (B2B) or on the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) area. The customers (intermediaries, companies, consumers, etc.) are partially different in these areas. As stated before the Living Lab approach is focused on regionality. Accordingly it is important to understand whether the customers are situated locally or if they are globally distributed.
On the basis on the definition for a Living Lab for sustainable product development twelve companies in Vorarlberg were interviewed. The results of these interviews show that the basic prerequisites for a "Living Lab Vorarlberg" are given. For the implementation of the Living Lab it is necessary to work closely together with the companies in Vorarlberg. The study provides references whereas concrete measures are elaborated with the companies. The results of the survey show that special attention has to lie on ICT methods and sustainability.
The results of the basic study "Living Lab Vorarlberg" are the basis to further develop the notion of a "Living Lab Vorarlberg" together with companies (e.g. Hilti AG, Rhomberg Bau, Zumtobel, Doppelmayr). A follow-up proposal will be submitted in the FFG programme COIN in autumn 2008.
Dr.-Ing. Jens Schumacher
Fachhochschule Vorarlberg GmbH
Thomas Bargetz, Mag. (FH) Karin Feurstein, Dipl.-Ing. Peter Heinzle, Matthias Rieder
Fachhochschule Vorarlberg GmbH
Dipl.-Math. Hermann Böhling
Produtec Ingenieursgesellschaft mbH