Living Lab Guide: University of Oxford Case Study

Tags: living labs | University of Oxford

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Strategically embedding Living Labs in the institution’s sustainability strategy to support progress towards carbon reduction targets

What advice would you give an institution staff member keen to get this started?

“You need the right engagement from the get go - being really clear on what it is and roles of individuals/ stakeholders. Everyone had different expectations, so it is important to be clear on the direction to take it in.” – Rebecca Ford, Researcher in Energy and Environmental Change.

An overview of Living Labs at Oxford came from a colleague previously allocated responsibility for Living Lab coordination, however this role has since changed.

The focus of the Living Lab at Oxford has been to assist in achieving the University’s carbon emission reduction targets.

Although Estates Services staff have a dominant role in implementing projects and programmes to reduce emissions, Living Labs were incorporated into the strategy to create and support a research plan that embeds sustainability deeply across the university.

Rather than establishing a project and then bringing different stakeholders together to deliver on it as is often seen in tertiary education, Oxford took a slightly different approach to build on the strength of the existing research, as well as the opportunities presented in the delivery of carbon reduction projects. One to one interviews were conducted with both research and operations staff, following which a workshop was held to bring different stakeholders together to explore and share their work priorities and the challenges they face, and identify opportunities for partnership.

A number of projects have emerged, though they have taken time to come to fruition given challenges around securing funding for the research. Another challenge has been in delivering student projects. While this has worked well in other institutions, Oxford has struggled to get these off the ground, largely due to limited opportunities to integrate such projects into existing department curricula.