Present and future of living labs in Taiwan - Interview with Dr. Belinda Chen
On Friday, May 22, 2015, Paolo Aversano from the ENoLL Office interviewed Dr. Belinda Chen (Living Labs Taiwan, ENoLL effective member) on Skype. Dr. Belinda Chen discussed both accomplishments and challenges they are facing while furthering open innovation and Living Lab methodologies in Taiwan.
On Friday, May 22, 2015, Paolo Aversano from the ENoLL Office interviewed Dr. Belinda Chen (Living Labs Taiwan, ENoLL effective member) on Skype. Dr. Belinda Chen discussed both accomplishments and challenges they are facing while furthering open innovation and Living Lab methodologies in Taiwan. Below is a transcript of that interview.
– Could you present Living Labs Taiwan: where it is based, its main goals and areas of interest?
Living Labs Taiwan is an organization operated by Innovative DigiTech-Enabled Applications & Services Institute (IDEAS), Institute for Information Industry (III). III is a national research and development organization based in Taipei city (Taiwan). Our Living Lab wants to promote open innovation in a live environment involving real uses. We work on healthcare, well-being, e-learning and tourism, but our major focus is currently on healthcare since we have worked on many health/e-health projects during the last years.
– Why is healthcare regarded as an important domain for your Living Lab?
Health is a hot topic in Taiwan. Population ageing is a growing phenomenon and the city government is concerned about it. Since the launch of our Living Lab in 2008 we have had close collaboration with the government. They wanted us to work on healthcare and provide new, innovative services to citizens. Since that time we have worked on a few health-related projects about population ageing, health and safety at work, health promotion and obesity.
– Did the dialogue with local government help establish your Living Lab in 2008?
We launched this Living Lab ourselves at the very beginning, building connections with our community. At the beginning government was not involved. However, since we knew that we had to work with all different stakeholders we started developing a co-creative environment with users and local institutions. We started meeting regularly with the director of our district and representatives of municipality to communicate ideas we wanted to implement. Of course local government had its own vision to create a better city and improved services, but healthcare was the common ground were cooperation could move forward.
– Development of living labs in Taiwan: what is the status quo?
As Living Labs Taiwan we have done a lot of work using Living Lab methodologies. We have for instance developed a methodology that we call “service experience engineering” (the SEE methodology). This methodology has been developed not only by our Living Lab team but in collaboration with our Institute for Information Industry. The purpose of this methodology is bridging the gap between technology and services. Through SEE we are able to develop new service prototypes with different stakeholders. By using the SEE methodology, we provide companies with a real-life environment to test their services. After a Living Lab trial conducted by our team, we ask local users to test the service so as to get quick and reliable feedback.
– How are private companies and public authorities adapting to open innovation in your country?
Honestly speaking I think that many enterprises don’t get the idea of open innovation because they still do innovation in a more traditional way: engineers working in a lab, developing a product and bringing it to market. However, we recently started emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurship for young generations: an interesting, fast-growing trend in Taiwan. We have created for example a Makerspace where young people can do prototype their entrepreneurial ideas, get support and advice from the Living Lab team and collaborate with experts in various fields: industrial design, graphic design and more. Young people can thus create prototypes of their business ideas thanks to this open support mechanism. Our Living Lab collaborates with universities that provide facilities used by students to participate in this programme.
– What’s the project at the core of your living lab activities in 2015?
The Makerspace is one of our major activities to promote open innovation. We still work on projects related to health promotion. We then keep using a number of health promotion platforms, and we have also developed a service platform for other 4 Taiwanese cities that will adopt solutions developed by our Living Lab in their local context. These services will be adapted to local needs and tested through a proof of concept, proof of service and proof of business.
One of these health solutions is called ComCare (which means Communication+Care), an app that automatically collects medical data (blood pressure, body temperature, etc.) from different devices and stores it in the cloud so that users, doctors and the hospital can access information anytime, anywhere.
– Could you mention some recent co-design experiences made with local habitants and community groups?
We work more and more with young generations in the Makerspace. Since we don’t have many new projects coming in we focus on working with young generations to develop new projects with them. We have already created some solutions so far, however in the next phase we would like to be even more open/innovative and develop ideas with young people that could be then tested in the Living Lab environment. This is our strategy for 2015.
– As you know ENoLL is a community of Labs willing to collaborate to develop open innovation and grow together. Which collaboration strategy best fits your needs? How do you want to join forces with other ENoLL members?
During the last months we have been thinking to establish a branch of ENoLL in Asia, like an Asian network of Living Labs operating under the umbrella of ENoLL. This would of course give some extra-work since we would need to establish international connections with other countries in Asia and organise promotional activities. ENoLL could provide some assistance to disseminate this initiative in Asia: it would be great. If we could get more exposure of the Living Lab concept in Asia next step would be to establish such an Asian network. This is an activity we would really like to develop.
– What are your Living Lab goals for the next couple of years?
During the last years we have been trying to launch a commercial service, as we would like companies to use our services and pay for them. However, although we are trying to achieve this goal, we are not there yet. Therefore, instead of talking (only) to traditional, big companies we now want to focus more on the Makerspace and on young people, young entrepreneurs, start-ups. We try to convince them of the value of Living Lab methodologies and value of testing in local communities. This is the most valuable asset for them, testing before putting a service into the market. For many start-ups the use of Living Lab methodologies and user involvement are good ideas to foster innovation and make the business grow.