On 1 December 2016, Kes McCormick presented some findings from the GUST project at the Sustainable City Development conference in Malmö, Sweden. Urban Living Labs (ULLs) have emerged as an approach to experimentation in real-life city settings. They can be defined as sites (buildings, streets, and districts) devised to design, test and learn from social and technical innovation in real time. Despite increasing numbers of ULLs in Sweden, Europe and around the world, there is still a lack of understanding of their effectiveness and methodology, and it is unclear whether they contribute to transitions towards more sustainable cities in a substantial way despite holding great promise.
This paper seeks to examine how ULLs can contribute to the development of sustainable cities by exploring four ULLs located in three cities in Sweden: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. While the cases differed in their focus and practices, they all apply an experimental approach to urban development. Some ULLs have visions and goals with a clear connection to sustainable development. Others have more open ended visions, allowing the users of the ULLs to co-create knowledge and promote learning. Yet others seek to develop inclusive urban planning methods to be used on a large scale to improve the governance of city development.