Integration of Living Labs within the University: Medical Physics and Digital Innovation Lab, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

The Thess-AHALL Example: Revolutionizing the Regional Health and Wellbeing ecosystem through Living Labs Integration.

For over a decade, the Thessaloniki Action for Health and Wellbeing Living Lab (Thess-AHALL) has championed research and innovation, enhancing health and wellbeing in Thessaloniki and beyond. Initially established in 2014 with a focus on Active & Healthy Aging, Thess-AHALL has since expanded its mission to embrace a holistic approach to health and well-being. This broader initiative promotes cross-sectoral collaboration, involving stakeholders from various fields to develop solutions that improve the quality of life.

Thess-AHALL integrates diverse sectors, including oncology, agri-food, urban resilience, environmental change, mass communication, and culture. This comprehensive model transforms Thessaloniki into a living lab that addresses complex health challenges holistically. By uniting city authorities, museums, libraries, and university research groups, Thess-AHALL fosters initiatives that enhance the quality of life and promote independent living. Thess-AHALL employs participatory design and city science methodologies to co-create solutions with the community.

Οne of the key activities that Thess-AHALL undertook was the Collaboration & Research Community for Independent Living. This citizen-led research group comprised older adults, patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. The dynamic panel actively engaged in living lab activities, applying scientific research methodologies in an experiential learning manner. They shared experiences, codesigned solutions, and participated in educational field visits. Recognizing their pivotal role, ThessAHALL developed a model to elevate their status from collaborators to co-owners, advancing towards a new patient-led living lab model.

Another significant initiative was the PECan project, or Partners of Experience in Cancer. This project cultivated a culture of mutual understanding and collaboration between cancer patients and the research community. It involved caregivers, healthcare professionals, and medical students, aiming to establish the first Living Lab self-governed by citizens, fostering research, open science, and innovation in oncology.

As part of this initiative, we established the Collaboration & Research Community for Independent Living. This citizen-led research group comprises older adults, patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. The dynamic panel actively engaged in living lab activities, applying scientific research methodologies in an experiential learning manner. They share experiences, co-design solutions, and participate in educational field visits. Recognizing their pivotal role, Thess-AHALL is developing a model to elevate their status from collaborators to co-owners, advancing towards a new patient-led living lab model.

Figure 1: Collaboration & Research Community for the Independent Living “Partners of Experience”

Furthermore, the CAPTAIN H2020 program designed a smart home assistant for older adults using micro projectors. Thess-AHALL led the co-creation and experimentation framework for this project, resulting in the development of the “Partners of Experience” methodology. This methodology was later utilized in other European projects like HOSMARTAI H2020 and iProlepsis Horizon Europe.

Another noteworthy initiative is the VITALISE H2020 project, which harmonized access to Health and Wellbeing Living Labs for researchers, promoting cross-disciplinary and cross-border experimentation. Thess-AHALL performed three Living Lab projects and facilitated six research studies from external researchers. A significant outcome of this project was the development of a web-based panel management tool (app.thepanelab.com) for use by external Living Labs. By providing a centralized platform for managing participant panels, the tool streamlined the recruitment, tracking, and engagement of study participants, making it easier for researchers to conduct high-quality, large-scale studies. Furthermore, by offering a shared resource that can be used across various departments and research groups, it facilitates the integration of diverse fields such as healthcare, technology, social sciences, and more. This promotes a more holistic approach to research and innovation, encouraging the blending of different perspectives and expertise to address complex health and wellbeing challenges.

Thess-AHALL actively engaged in three Living Lab projects and provided support for six research studies conducted by external researchers. These initiatives focused on testing and evaluating new technologies within the healthcare sector, contributing to the advancement of innovative solutions and interdisciplinary collaboration.

 

Figure 2 – Stakeholders creating and enhancing learning tools in Thess-AHALL’s premises

The true strength of Thess-AHALL lies in its extensive network of collaborators within the Quadruple Helix, spanning local, national, and EU levels. The integration of Thess-AHALL within the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki illustrate how universities can serve as catalysts for innovation and regional development. The living lab model facilitates dynamic interaction between academic research, technological development, and real-world application, creating fertile ground for breakthroughs in health and wellbeing. By embedding living labs within the university structure, ThessAHALL harnesses academic expertise, fosters interdisciplinary collaboration, and bridges the gap between theory and practice. The involvement of the Quadruple Helix is crucial, as it ensures that innovation is driven by a holistic approach, incorporating perspectives from academia, industry, government, and civil society to create more impactful and sustainable solutions.

Through its national and international synergies, involvement in numerous research projects, and deep knowledge of working with diverse populations, Thess-AHALL drove meaningful social change in the local ecosystem.

 

Figure 3: Thess-AHALL Co-Designing, LL activities and Educational Visit

CATALISI Deliverable 2.1 Knowledge sharing and Mutual Learning Plan

Institutional transformation within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is vital to address the current challenges and align with societal values and needs. CATALISI employs seven innovative acceleration services to drive this transformation, including Living Labs, Design Lab, Counseling, Human Capital Reinforcement, Predictive Skills Studies, Marketplace, and Community of Practice (CoP).   

The CATALISI project enables Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to pursue institutional transformation, conceiving mutual learning as an “acceleration service” for strengthening human capital, capacity building and outreach. 

The relevance of mutual learning and knowledge sharing as a methodology to strengthen the capacity of HEIs to advance towards the European Research Area (ERA) Policy Agenda for 2022-2024 is proven and required to define a detailed Knowledge Sharing and Mutual Learning Plan, led by APRE, to support this process.   

The CATALISI D.2.1 deliverable provides guidelines for the set-up and organization of Mobilization and Mutual Learning (MML) workshops and Twinning schemes to assist HEIs in acquiring knowledge of workable solutions that can be implemented in their context at institutional level.  

Knowledge Sharing and Mutual Learning Approach and activities in CATALISI 

MML actions address R&I challenges by creating diverse partnerships and ensuring R&I relevance and responsiveness, highlighting a need for targeted knowledge sharing and peer to peer learning to achieve institutional transformation. 

Knowledge sharing and mutual learning in CATALISI aim to support HEIs in their institutional transformations by providing practical knowledge, best practices, and examples benefitting from the exchange with other HEIs peers, experts and societal actors. This approach facilitates broad networking, co-creation, capacity-building, idea generation, and stakeholder engagement to manage and sustain R&I over time.  

Knowledge sharing and mutual learning in CATALISI includes three educational and learning activities, namely onsite workshops, online events, and twinning schemes: 

  1. MML onsite workshops: These events facilitate experience and knowledge exchange among HEIs. Seven workshops, one in each implementer location, involve discussions on institutional transformation roadmaps and co-creation of new solutions and pathways. 
  1. Mutual learning online events organized by APRE: these events feature Community of Practice (CoP) members sharing best practices and advising on institutional changes.  
  1. Twinning schemes: Twinning mechanisms facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge transfer and best practice implementation among HEIs. Each HEI visits threeothers, focusing on specific intervention areas like Human Capital, Research Modus Operandi, and Finance. 

Conclusion 

In CATALISI, APRE facilitates the creation of a knowledge-sharing and mutual learning environment for exchanging ideas and sharing knowledge among participants. MML onsite workshops and Twinnig are being implemented aiming: 

  • To be informative and inspiring, motivating participants for further stimulating a positive research culture within institutions. 
  • To promote interactions with experts providing valuable insights on good practices and actionable knowledge on potential solutions. 
  • To transfer knowledge from different disciplines and from different countries.  

The value of knowledge-sharing and mutual learning thus extends beyond immediate applications in the context of specific CATALISI initiatives.

You can download the full deliverable at this link

CATALISI Deliverable 1.1 Acting Living Labs needs assessment and 4-Helix Ecosystem

In the European Union (EU), Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have long been recognized for their global leadership in research and innovation. To maintain and enhance this leadership, it is crucial for these institutions to address the challenges of Research and Innovation (R&I) and to manage and drive the transformations affecting science and innovation by strengthening their collaborations with European universities, citizens, and society. This cooperation maximizes the value of research and its impact on the region and local communities. Bridging the gap in research and innovation (R&I) performance among HEIs, to better navigate and cooperate in the production and dissemination of high-quality knowledge.  

The CATALISI project 

The CATALISI Horizon Europe project is dedicated to supporting HEIs in successfully implementing strategies and individualized pathways for institutional transformation through the adoption of innovative acceleration services. The CATALISI model focuses on three main domains for institutional transformation: 

  • Research Careers and Talent Support 
  • Open Science and Public Engagement 
  • Sustainable Research and Education 

These domains encompass various intervention areas and are integrated with seven targeted and innovative acceleration services designed to facilitate and catalyze institutional transformations in R&I. These services include: 

  • Living Labs 
  • Design Lab for Transformational Pathways: strategy and agenda setting 
  • Counselling 
  • Reinforcement of Human Capital: capacity building & outreach 
  • Predictive Study on Skills Anticipation 
  • Marketplace 
  • Community of Practice (CoP) 

By addressing these domains and leveraging these services, CATALISI aims to strengthen European University collaborations and alliances, positioning them as lighthouses of European values. 

Methodology 

The Living Lab Service: leveraging a co-creation methodology for university innovation development 

The methodological approach of the CATALISI project focuses on a participatory and collaborative framework to plan and develop stakeholder workshops. This approach is rooted in the Living Lab methodology, which emphasizes co-creation, stakeholder engagement, and real-world settings for innovation.  

One of the cornerstone acceleration services within the CATALISI project is the implementation of “Living Labs.” These innovative research environments emphasize co-creation, stakeholder involvement, and real-world settings to foster institutional transformation. Living Labs are guided by the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). 

Living Labs are innovative research environments that emphasize co-creation, stakeholder involvement, and real-world settings. They spotlight a distinctive approach and outcomes, and their unique application tailored for HEIs within the CATALISI project. They are not just theoretical concepts; they are practical, real-world environments where new ideas and strategies are tested and refined. The primary step in the institutional transformation for CATALISI Implementers is the “Living Lab” service, which involves setting up CATALISI Acting Living Labs. These labs allow for the elaboration of targeted and effective action plans within selected intervention areas through a co-created and iterative process. 

The Living Labs service has been instrumental in setting the stage for institutional transformation within the CATALISI project. A pivotal moment in this analysis was the organization of collaborative and interactive workshops tailored to each CATALISI Higher Education Institution.   

 

Stakeholder Workshops for heterogenous collaboration among actors in HEIs 

The CATALISI project emphasizes the importance of collaboration, cultural change, and responsive communication to achieve shared objectives. By leveraging the diverse perspectives and expertise of stakeholders across the quadruple helix—academia, business, public administration, and civil society—the project aims to create a holistic and impactful approach to institutional transformation in higher education. 

Between June and August 2023, seven workshops were organized by each Implementers, involving 153 key stakeholders from universities and their local ecosystems. These workshops provided a platform for meaningful exchanges, focusing on specific interventions driving institutional transformation. The workshops facilitated the re-evaluation and fine-tuning of initially outlined intervention areas, ensuring they are tailored to each institution’s unique needs and context. 

The quadruple helix model ensures that a diverse range of stakeholders from academia, business, public administration, and civil society are involved in the workshops. This diversity is crucial for capturing a wide array of perspectives and needs. 

Conclusion and Future Steps 

The launch of CATALISI’s first acceleration service in the Acting Living Labs marked the beginning of a transformative journey for HEIs across Europe. The insights gathered from the stakeholder workshops formed the basis for the next steps, including the development of concrete action plans aimed at designing and implementing institutional transformations. 

 

After the exploration phase that highlighted the diverse target intervention areas of CATALISI Implementers during the first year of the project, a comprehensive needs assessment involving Implementers and relevant stakeholders was conducted. This laid the groundwork for the subsequent collaborative design of Action Plans for Institutional Transformation. 

The methodological approach of this phase closely mirrors the Living Lab Methodology, ensuring that the solutions formulated—especially the Action Plans—are deeply rooted in the real-world challenges identified. This guarantees their relevance and alignment with the current needs of CATALISI HEIs. 

Following the co-design of Action Plans, Implementers are proceeding to the implementation phase. As the next step, the Action Plans will undergo evaluation to refine them. This iterative process facilitates continuous improvement and adaptation, ensuring the effective implementation of Action Plans throughout the project’s duration. The CATALISI project serves as a beacon of innovation and collaboration, guiding HEIs to elevate their research excellence and societal impact, and move towards the universities of the future. As a vital acceleration service within the CATALISI project, Living Labs have proven highly effective in co-creating change across various intervention areas of ERA policy and R&I throughout Europe. This success underscores their potential for adoption and adaptation in diverse future applications. 

You can download the full deliverable at this link