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Puglia: Regional ICT Living Labs for Innovation in Policy Design

1. Introduction

Goals, results, timeframe, context and relevant actors.

livinglabs_logoSince their official launch and endorsement by the Finnish EU Presidency in November 2006, Living Labs have often been addressed as an original, truly European, innovation policy model. However, we have only recently seen examples of Living Lab adoption for policy innovation – not just innovation policy. One of such examples comes from a Convergence Region of Italy, Apulia, where the focus has been (and still is) on leveraging user driven, open innovation to give better technological responses to precise societal challenges. This paper reports the early achievements of a flagship initiative that is ongoing, but promises to become a cornerstone of the Region’s future (2014-2020) Smart Specialisation Strategy.

2. Cluster connection

This paragraph is to determine whether the project is linked to a creative cluster in this region and whether there is a link with other clusters.

Is this case part of a cluster?

In the implemented Living Labs model eight thematic domains have been defined and experimentation projects and relative actors (SMEs, Research institute, Final users) were clustered. Among the eight thematic domains there is a specific creative cluster aggregation named “Digital and Creative Economy” where eleven Living Labs are now providing first results in terms of co-design, user involvement, product/service testing, demonstration activities, etc.

What type of cluster (digital, fashion, creative general etc), does the cluster consist of one type of (sub)sectors or is it heterogeneous?

Heterogeneous sector in the Digital and Creative Industries domain.

What actors does the cluster consist of?

SMEs, Research institute, Universties, Final users, Public administration, Museums.

Who is responsible for this cluster? Is there a cluster organization?

There is no single responsible. All the actors can interact through an implemented web platform to manage a forum project discussion and a blog technological debate.

Are there other strong clusters in the area/region, and if so: are there exchanges between the creative clusters and the others?

In the Living Labs model a constellation of eight thematic cluster where launched and crossfertilizations among actor competences are arising.

3. Role of government

This paragraph is to determine the role of (local/regional/national) government and policy in this case.

How important is the role of the government in this case?

Living Labs are working collaborations of innovation stakeholders who are openly engaged in the co-creation of new products, services, technological or societal infrastructures, within real-life settings. The latter may be physical environments, such as city boroughs or rural habitats, as well as virtual places, like social networks and online communities. Participants in Living Labs typically belong to the so-called “Quadruple Helix”, namely individual citizens/consumers and associations thereof, typically integrate the familiar, “triadic” innovation partnership composed of universities/research institutes, SMEs and large enterprises, as well as public authorities. Recently, the exemplary value and enforcing power of Living Labs for policy design and implementation has been demonstrated by a number of R&D, innovation and territorial cooperation projects, such as MED Medlab, CIP (ICT-PSP) Parterre, CEE CentraLab, Alcotra Innovation, etc. The EC promptly noted this progress and included those experiences in a recent publication – the Digital Agenda Toolbox – which aims to be supportive of this wave of appropriation of the Living Lab approach within the “black box” of local digital governance tools in the perspective of Europe 2020.

The Apulian ICT Living Labs initiative

Despite a considerable number of successful Living Lab projects, until a few years ago there was little evidence of implementation on a wide scale at regional or cross-regional level in Europe. The LILAN programme from the Scandinavian area, and to a far more limited extent, the individual cross-border experimentations carried out within the CIP (ICT-PSP) flagship project Apollon, are the most notable exceptions in this regard. In March 2012, the Regional Government of Apulia – supported by its in-house company, InnovaPuglia SpA – officially launched the Apulian ICT Living Labs initiative, a 7.2 million Euro private investment programme, supported by Axis I, Measure 1.4, Action 1.4.2 of the ERDF Operational Programme 2007-2013 with a maximum public co-funding ratio of 60% of total expenditure.

What are the relevant policies that contribute to this case?

The core aspect of this initiative was the adoption of the Living Lab approach to the purpose of facilitating implementation of the Regional Strategy for Research and Innovation, in three major ways / during three consecutive phases.

1. At an early stage, through promoting the collection of specific societal needs, lending themselves to a technological response, into a dedicated online database – the so-called Requirements Catalogue – which is structured into eight thematic domains: Competitive Renewable Energy, Cultural Heritage and Tourism, Digital and Creative Economy, Education, E-government, Environment Safety and Social Protection, Health, Wellness and Socio-Cultural Dynamics,, Transport and Mobility. All the major stakeholders of the Apulia region (public authorities, third sector organisations, citizen and consumer associations, etc.) could freely publish their needs onto the platform in a structured, machine-readable, way. This also enabled to achieve a sort of “census” of the potential end users of future applications trials, which were collected in another online database, dubbed the Living Lab Partners Catalogue. At present, the Requirements Catalogue gathers more than 400 needs and the Partners Catalogue more than 200 different entities. The latter also includes the most important research institutes (both of public and private nature) and academia located in the region, irrespective of their being proposers of specific needs in the Requirements Catalogue.

2. In a second stage – initiated by the publication in August 2012, of a call for funding projects issued by InnovaPuglia on behalf of the Regional Government – the ICT SMEs located in Apulia (thus with the exclusion of non ICT companies and of large enterprises) were invited to submit cooperative R&D and innovation projects in alliance among themselves (optionally) and with stakeholders registered in the Partners Catalogue (mandatorily). The aim of these proposals was to provide specific responses to well identified requirements extracted from the former catalogue, by working in a cooperative fashion with end user representatives and research institutes taken from the latter. The finance of these projects was established in such a way that a major part of the budget went to experimentations of the proposed solutions with and by the end users in real-life environments, in compliance with the Living Lab approach. By end users here we mean e.g. employees, students, teachers, tourists, civil servants, patients, etc. – depending on the thematic domain selected. For instance, a need expressed in the Requirements Catalogue by a local psycho-pedagogical association was to use technology to provide education and learning aid to students with specific learning disabilities. Among the mental disorders dyslexia is the most widespread and in Italy the problem affects approximately 350,000 students between 6 and 19 years, amounting to 4-5% of the school population (one student in each class of 20). To tackle with this requirement, a dedicated Learning Management System LMS was proposed, which is able to provide a multisensory and multimodal representation of data (robot, touch, audio/video information), and the related project saw that association (together with schools, parents organizations and others) within the partnership. The logic behind this scheme was to reverse the usual “technology push” vision of innovation, which has led many project results to the famous “Valley of Death”, where they are no longer research prototypes worth of funding, while at the same time not yet ready for market launch. Starting from authentic societal needs and experimenting in real life conditions, was expected to be supportive of a more “demand pull” and sustainable innovation, also strengthening the quality, utility, usability, economy, and acceptance of the proposed ICT solutions. Following the same train of logic, the Regional government of Apulia also launched, in August 2012, a pilot action on Pre Commercial Public Procurement according to the EC communication (COM 2007 799 def) in one of the eight application domains of the Apulian ICT Living Labs initiative, namely Health, Wellness and Socio-Cultural Dynamics. The role played by the Region here was to mobilise and aggregate public demand (by other departments of the Regional government, in charge for healthcare policies and social interventions) in a number of innovation subdomains, where there are needs for better quality, but also lower cost of existing products and services in support to “Independent Living”.

3. A first ranking of 11 approved project proposals (out of 25 submissions) was published on the Region’s Official Journal no. 43 of 21st March 2013. Additional 22 projects (out of 25 submitted) came in a few months later and their list appeared on the OJ no. 107 of 1st March 2013. New 47 Living Labs project were selected in the third call for proposal closed in November 2013. All the eight thematic domains were represented.. Due to their nature of already-close-to-the-market ICT innovations, all project durations were limited to 12 months (with positive impacts also on acceleration of Structural Funds expenditure). As a result, we look forward to seeing the first tested and validated prototypes by Summer 2014. Additionally, it is expected that after the end of funded activities, a number of partnerships created will become permanent working alliances – thematic Living Labs adopting the principles of user driven, open innovation for real life experimentation in the respective thematic domains – that will ask for the acknowledgment of ENoLL, the European Network of Living Labs, as endorsed by the Regional Government of Apulia.

What are the policy instruments used?

Territorial impact of the initiative is by now measurable in terms of awareness raising. In fact, the Apulia Region together with InnovaPuglia have carried out an intensive promotion work, consisting in:

  • Around 30 meetings, presentations, info-days, focus groups organized before and during the first programme stage
  • More than 100 direct phone contacts
  • About 150 targeted mailings
  • Two web portals, fully developed and managed by InnovaPuglia, one technical (follow this link), linked to a specific database for the on-line submission of project proposals, the management of FAQ and assistance to proposers, and one promotional (follow this link) with constantly updated web pages for the News and Newsletter sections, several thematic Blogs and a Project development Forum.

Within the regional innovation system, the Requirements Catalogue has had a considerable impact (as witnessed by the 400+ entries) in terms of mobilising new stakeholders – namely local end users and their representatives – and raising the attention on the potential of ICT to solve societal problems. Most involved enterprises – only ICT SMEs – were not familiar with the Living Lab approach, however there are signals from the ongoing projects that real-life experimentations, proofs of concept or public demonstrations of the resulting products and services, are taking place involving genuine end users.

Please pay attention to financing (total budget relevant to the cluster), percentage of government funding in the total budget available for this case and any other resources made available.

In terms of market sustainability, this policy instrument was deliberately focused on the last “edge” of the industrial innovation value chain, with the specific aim of improving the market perspectives for prototype ICT solutions already developed by local SMEs – also as a result of technology transfer from the regional research system – and only needing additional validation and testing. Developed solutions are therefore expected to become closer to the market and also find some lead customers during and within the Living Lab activities.

In terms of institutional sustainability, it is increasingly acknowledged that Regional development strategies have to define new visions of future for citizens and businesses, as well as increase the quality of life and social cohesion in the territory of reference. Given the pervasive role that technology (and particularly ICT) plays in the evolution of knowledge-based societies, any new strategy of such a kind has to take technological capacity, potential and knowledge (not only skill) building into account in order to be successful. In this direction goes the Apulian ICT Living Labs initiative, which could be depicted as an application of collective intelligence and adaptive capacity building with respect to the evolution of technology for the fulfilment of needs of public relevance. Finally, there are clear benefits in terms of faster and more targeted ERDF expenditure, an issue that has affected dramatically the Convergence Regions of Italy in the two former Programming periods of the EU Structural Funds.

Within the upcoming Smart Specialisation Strategy 2014-2020, the Regional Government of Apulia intends to take stock of the results of this initiative, turning it into one of the cornerstones of a next generation model of financial aid to R&D and innovation.

4. Role of private sector

This paragraph is to determine the role of private actors in this case.

In your case, what role(s) do private actors play and how important are they?

The private sector in the clusters are represented by micro, small and medium enterprises and according to the specific nature and number of SMEs in the projects they participate with a co-financing budget percentage. As an average percentage SMEs finance 50%-60% of the investment while the remaining 50%-40% are financed with public fund by means of a competitive aid grant.

Please pay attention to financing (total budget relevant to the cluster), percentage of government funding in the total budget available for this case and any other resources made available.


5. Role of knowledge institutions

This paragraph is to determine the role of Knowledge Institutes (aka Schools, Universities etc) in this case.

Are knowledge institutions involved?

Yes, in the Living Labs model if the actors participate to the competitive grant aid are constrained to aggregate also with Research Institute, Schools, Universities.

If knowledge institutions are involved, please describe their contribution (including financial).

When the knowledge institutions are present in the Living Labs as Final Users they do not co-finance any participation cost, while in case they are present as beneficiary of a competitive grant aid they co-finance with the same percentage of the private SMEs.

6. Successes and failures of the case

This paragraph is to determine what the success and fail factors are in your case. Please keep in mind that it is important for ECIA to find out whether it is context, financing, the various actors, change of policy etc.

Please describe the main success and fail factors, provide a clear description, limit the use of bullet points.

The model implementation activities are now in progress ad first results can only be expressed in terms of number (80 total Living Labs, around 38 Ml€ budget investment (55% public vs 45% private), 500 emerging needs collected, more than 350 SMEs involved). Cluster indicators, developed products, implemented services and technological innovation results will be assessed as soon as specific Living Labs project results will be available.

7. Replication potential

This paragraph is to determine if this case could be copied by another region, country or even Europe.

Would it be possible to replicate this case in another region? If so, in which region?

The Living Labs model to support clustering and aggregation of different territorial actors can be duplicated provided the presence of a shared and public database of local needs and clear societal challenges requirement.

What would be the conditions to do this?

See above.

8. Finance model

Please pay attention to financing (total budget relevant to the cluster), percentage of government funding in the total budget available for this case and any other resources made available.

The Living Labs initiative, implement an estimated 38Ml€ budget investment (average expenditure 55% public vs 45% private). The public investment is supported by Axis I, Measure 1.4, Action 1.4.2 of the ERDF Operational Programme 2007-2013.

If knowledge institutions are involved, please describe their contribution (including financial)

When the knowledge institutions are present in the Living Labs as Final Users they do not co-finance any participation cost, while in case they are present as beneficiary of a competitive grant aid they co-finance with the same percentage of the private SMEs.

9. Contact

For more information, please contact M. Diciano via m.diciano(at)innova.puglia.it

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