A framework for the evaluation of living labs as boundary spanners in innovation

Marina van Geenhuizen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
674 Downloads (Pure)


Living labs, as a methodology to enhance user-centric innovation, have large potentials in bringing inventions to the marketplace, but their performance can benefit more from evaluation. This article develops a novel framework for evaluation of living labs, including (1) a system approach providing an analytical view on living labs’ performance and results; (2) a focus on actor-complexity and boundary-spanning needs; (3) a set of questions concerning, e.g. absorption of user-feedback, satisfaction among actors, and openness and connecting with larger networks; (4) a list of key performance factors; and (5) a focus on participatory evaluation. The design of this evaluation framework rests on a comprehensive literature search and case studies representing different actor complexity, namely home-solutions in healthcare, reconstruction of large (multi)functional buildings, and multiple combinations of activity (university campuses). Key performance factors are found to be: an early involvement of adequately skilled users in multiple learning processes, including absorption of feedback, and a broader but balanced set of actors connecting with upscaling and acceptance in the market. Also, boundaries need to be better bridged by learning how to handle conflicts and deal with intermediation, while respecting shared goals and interests. Specifically, university living labs call for maintaining a solid relation with cities and their actors. Overall, an explicitly designed evaluation framework is a key part of the working plan of living labs. The results also indicate a need for stronger attention for boundary-spanning in evaluation, because living labs are increasingly applied in comprehensive multi-activity settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • actor-complexity
  • evaluation
  • Living labs
  • performance
  • user-involvement


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