Campus as a Living Lab Principles

The concept of a living lab project is used at a number of institutions. To aid in creating a common understanding among different partners in living lab projects, the CLL subcommittee has created and adopted a set of guiding principles which define what a ‘living lab’ activity is for the University, regardless of the activity’s location at the University, the type of client involved, or the student, staff, or faculty involvement. Although CECCS is not involved in all living lab projects and these principles are not exhaustive of the types of activities going on at the University, the purpose of these campus as living lab principles is to develop a path for U of T to become a leader in integrating operations and academic activity around sustainability on all three campuses. 

Four defining elements to a CLL project are identified as:

  • Integrating core learning and research mission with campus planning and operations,
  • involving responsible use of U of T infrastructure for demonstration of and research on leading edge solutions (technical and social),
  • engaging researchers, students, faculty, instructors, operations staff, and potentially external partners, and 
  • having potential for knowledge transfer within and beyond U of T.

The objectives of CLL projects are to:

  • Create sustainable solutions that are ecologically and socially sustainable, financially viable, and supportable in the long term by campus operations and the campus community
  • Develop research, innovation, and collaboration opportunities – develop new technologies, techniques and solutions in partnership with others through internal or external collaborations
  • Look for integrated solutions – employ a campus-wide perspective, focusing on connections between physical systems (energy, water, material, food) and the well-being of our community
  • Provide learning & engagement opportunities for students, staff and faculty – involve campus community members from a broad range of disciplines & backgrounds in the innovation process
  • Advance knowledge of possible solutions for a sustainable future – learn from all projects regardless of the outcomes
  • Be inclusive and contributory create mutual & lasting benefit with a broad range of U of T community members and possible external partners

The factors that would make for a successful CLL project are:

  • high student participation,
  • access to resources, as required,
  • strong research, teaching & learning outcomes,
  • open communication,
  • identified operational needs,
  • effective project management,
  • committed & motivated partners. 

CLL Projects and Student Engagement

Student involvement is essential to any CLL project. Students in such projects receive a variety of benefits, including:

  • improved technical and group project skills,
  • application of knowledge and education to real-life situations applications,
  • networking opportunities with academic, operations, and other U of T community members, 
  • connections to prospective industry professionals, and
  • potential engagement with interested external partners.

CLL Projects with External Partners

Universities can work with external partners to develop living lab projects that create research on new technologies and ideas on campus. These CLL projects with external partners must be consistent with the elements and objectives of CLL projects mentioned above and adhere to the following principles: 

  • be time-limited projects,
  • look for innovative, technological solutions,
  • have a research dimension,
  • provide funding for students in accordance with the University’s guidelines on full cost recovery in research, and
  • agree to rights to publish and the university’s standard Intellectual Property (IP) rights

CLL projects with external partners may also extend work “beyond the campus” and into industry. External partners are encouraged to approach possible partners at the university with opportunities for both research and operations. 

Where applicable, CLL subcommittee will support the inclusion of both academic and operations in these projects, and suggest inclusion of potential stakeholders.