Embedding social entrepreneurship requires higher education institution to create and adapt infrastructures so that they can also provide a physical space to it. Many higher education institutions have already done this for entrepreneurship, e.g., through the establishment of incubators, office space for spin-offs and start-ups, centres for entrepreneurship or special units for entrepreneurship.

While these infrastructures can also be used for social entrepreneurship activities, some higher education institutions have also established special facilities that host meetings of staff and students with representatives of regional social organisations. In some cases, these facilities provide specific equipment that enables participant to work together creatively. In these “Living Labs” researchers, students and representatives of social organisations work together to develop social innovations addressing social problems in the region.

In living labs people can collaborate under real-work conditions and co-create solutions and interventions for goals. Currently, several European higher education institutions engage in implementing living labs, while other already work with them for some time.

Living labs are often used for developing social innovations in the sustainability area.

The goal

Living labs represent a special infrastructure that aims at facilitating collaboration and co-creation with the social sector. Providing it as a physical space for social entrepreneurship shows its significance to the institutional environment.

Examples of interventions at institutional level

Living labs are often defined as real-life laboratories in which scientist and stakeholders from civil society collaborate. Living labs are strongly user-oriented, with a focus on multidisciplinary, experimentation and peer-learning. Frequently, major processes of living labs have been described as co-creation, exploration, experimentation, and evaluation with regard to finding solutions to social problems.

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Other relevant resources
Links to selected HEInnovate case studies
  • not covered by HEInnovate
Further reading
  • Plummer, Ryan; Witkowski, Samantha; Smits, Amanda; Dale, Gillian (2022): Higher Education Institution–Community Partnerships: Measuring the Performance of Sustainability Science Initiatives. In Innov High Educ 47 (1), pp. 135–153. DOI: 10.1007/s10755-021-09572-8.
  • Thees, Hannes; Pechlaner, Harald; Olbrich, Natalie; Schuhbert, Arne (2020): The Living Lab as a Tool to Promote Residents’ Participation in Destination Governance. In Sustainability 12 (3), p. 1120. DOI: 10.3390/su12031120.
  • van den Heuvel, Renée; Braun, Susy; Bruin, Manon de; Daniels, Ramon (2021): A Closer Look at Living Labs and Higher Education using a Scoping Review. In Technology Innovation Management Review 11 (9/10), pp. 30–46.
  • Nguyen, Huong Thu; Marques, Pilar (2021): The promise of living labs to the Quadruple Helix stakeholders: exploring the sources of (dis)satisfaction. In European Planning Studies, pp. 1–20. DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2021.1968798.