Role of Living Labs in the Innovation Procurement
European Union has pointed out that Living Labs are the first step towards “a new European R&D and Innovation System, entailing a major paradigm shift for the whole innovation process” as well as “allow a bottom-up policy coherence to be reached, starting from the needs and aspirations of local and regional stakeholders, creating a bridge between Horizon 2020, Smart Specialisation, the Urban Agenda, Cohesion Policy, and so forth. In this context, Living Labs can be somehow thought of as a transversal, ICT driven, ‘lead market’ for “strengthening synergy between EU support policies in the area of research and innovation” and placing regions and cities as leading actors in Europe’s innovation strategies” (Smart Specialisation Platform, online).
The Livings Labs are a key piece to be able to achieve a change in the innovation model in the water sector towards a collaborative and specialized model in the innovation process and, an ideal tool for “help European Regions identify and valorise their respective economic niches and competitive advantages in the perspective of Smart Specialisation” (Smart Specialisation Platform, online).
In the water sector, Livings Labs can act as catalysts for Innovation Procurement (IP), constituting a technological platform and innovation ecosystem for technology transfer between the different actors in the water sector, in this case, wastewater treatment and reuse and resource recovery, a field in which great technological development is still necessary to respond to the demands of small populations.
It is important to highlight its legitimacy as a pillar of the change in governance, based on increasing the degree of trust of companies in public research organizations (in this case a Living Lab), aligning the innovation objectives of the Livings Lab with the enterprises. The social character of Livings Labs as innovation ecosystems cannot be overlooked, with a strong base in social interaction with the closest or best known environment. The effectiveness of IP instrument is favoured by the existence of prior relationships established between the different Livings Lab agents. The Livings Labs user community will facilitate the development of stable networks, facilitating transaction costs and establishing a favourable context for the exchange of innovative knowledge and the co-creation of innovative solutions. In this context, the participating enterprises would show high levels of satisfaction, especially based on the applied orientation of the IP tool and the possibility of engaging in exchanges with researchers. Additionally, IP “presents unexplored potentialities in the context of the quadruple helix (Maldonado et al., 2009), being able to promote the transfer of knowledge with third sector organizations to develop new products and services for social needs that are outside the incentives from the market.” (Lobera et al, 2018).
Therefore, Livings Labs can play a key role in developing IP actions in the water sector in so far that they can implement IP through knowledge transfer (Lobera et al, 2018) transforming in turn the innovation system of the water sector.