Puglia’s Living Lab matches ICT innovation with market needs

The EU-funded Apulian ICT Living Lab project leveraged user-driven, open innovation to support SMEs in Italy’s Puglia region to develop innovative ICT services for public administration.

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" The project established domain-specific open innovation environments in real-life conditions in which the active involvement of local end-users and ICT SMEs can pave the way for the co-design and demo-lab experimentation of new services, products and social infrastructures. "

Mazzarano Michele, Regional Minister for Economic Development

The Apulian ICT Living Lab project took a new approach to tackling Puglia’s economic crisis and to stimulating development. It focused on an innovative way for local ICT businesses to develop technological solutions to meet a range of public-sector requirements.  

As a result, over 200 different entities, ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises (SEMs) to established businesses and individual entrepreneurs, developed solutions for over 400 public-sector needs. All-in-all, 75 innovation projects were financed, affecting 15 000 citizens from 40 different municipalities.  

Domain-specific innovation 

The Living Lab model promoted what is called ‘prosumers’ by creating domain-specific, open innovation environments with real-life conditions. This co-creation set-up enabled developers and customers to work side by side, thereby ensuring that all the solutions developed closely matched actual market needs. Within the Lab, teams co-designed services and products, tested and validated their use and drafted business models for their eventual marketing.

Initially, the project identified the domain-specific requirements through a ‘call for ideas’. All 450 approved needs were then catalogued and published as the Living Labs Partnership Catalogue, which was followed by a corresponding call for proposals. These needs covered a wide range of areas, including: the environment, transportation, the digital economy, education, health and wellness, culture, electronic governance, renewable energy and tourism.  

Local businesses then submitted their proposals for testing and validating new and innovative ICT solutions aimed at satisfying the requirements listed. Each project proposal had to be submitted by at least one local ICT SME, and only partners previously registered in the Living Labs Partnership Catalogue could join. Furthermore, each proposal had to include at least one association or public body and one research laboratory in the formal partnership.  

Co-development in action

One example of the work resulting from the project is the Apulian Tourism Lab. Responding to a need for better promotion of the region’s tourism and cultural attractions, this innovative platform provides a single, integrated system of services the tourism industry can incorporate into its marketing initiatives. The platform’s unique content includes ‘off-the-beaten-track’ attractions, suggested itineraries, news and events and information on local artisan manufacturers. 

By the end of the first funding period, a number of the partnerships had scaled up into permanent working alliances or formal business entities.


Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Apulia ICT Living Lab - New Policy Approach in South Italy to Tackle the Economic Crisis and Enhance Development” is EUR 37 718 333, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 15 083 896 through the “Puglia” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.


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