Living Labs as Open Innovation Networks - Networks, Roles and Innovation Outcomes

Seppo Leminen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The importance and benefits of open innovation networks are widely accepted. Enterprises and other organisations are increasingly utilizing a variety of open innovation networks in different contexts. This study defines a living lab as a concept including real-life environments, a multitude of different stakeholders, and the importance of users as a part of innovation activities. Living labs are interesting because they represent a new way of organizing innovation activities by facing parallel socio-economic challenges and technological opportunities. This study aims to understand networks, user and stakeholder roles, and outcomes generated in living labs. The study has the following research questions: (1) What is a living lab, from a network perspective? (2) What roles do users and stakeholders have in living lab networks? (3) How do network structures affect outcomes in living labs? The research paradigm of this dissertation is grounded in constructivism. This study applies abductive reasoning as the research approach, where the study is grounded in literature on living labs and consists of empirical data on 26 living labs in Finland, Sweden, Spain and South Africa. The study offers many theoretical contributions and defined concepts for the living labs literature. Among the theoretical contributions, this study identifies seven new stakeholder roles (coordinator, builder, messenger, facilitator, orchestrator, integrator and informant), and four role patterns (role ambidexterity, reciprocity, temporality and multiplicity) in living labs. Next, this study highlights that collaboration and outcomes in living labs are achieved in the absence of strict objectives. This contribution is unique: many other studies on innovation propose that innovation activities should be managed and controlled. Further, this study identifies centralised, decentralised and distributed networks structures in living lab networks and uses them to analyse innovation activities in living labs. This study also reveals that network structures support the various types of innovations in living lab networks. This study offers tools and frameworks for managers and researchers to understand, identify and categorise open innovation networks and pursue innovation development in open innovation networks, particularly in living lab networks. For the future, this dissertation suggests nineteen propositions and a range of other research opportunities for open innovation networks and particularly living labs but also for contingency theory and the resource-based view.
Translated title of the contributionLiving Labs as Open Innovation Networks - Networks, Roles and Innovation Outcomes
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Vartiainen, Matti, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6374-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6375-1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • living lab
  • network
  • role
  • innovation
  • innovation outcome
  • open innovation
  • resource-based view
  • contingency theory
  • living laboratory
  • living labbing
  • living lab network
  • open innovation network
  • network structure
  • inhalation-dominated innovation
  • exhalation-dominated innovation
  • research stream
  • proposition

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