Living labs – a transatlantic urban trend

New York City is launching Neighborhood Innovation Labs for Smart City Technologies

Copenhagen has Copenhagen Solutions Lab, Danish Outdoor Lightning Lab (DOLL), Copenhagen Climate Resilient Neighborhood and Energy Lab Nordhavn. Now, New York City has Neighborhood Innovation Labs. Community labs are a new way of creating new tech solutions and social development at the same time.


The Smart City concept challenges the status quo of city management. The Smart City concept aims to bring innovative urban solutions into everyday city life, while also supporting livability and sustainable growth. The Smart City concept has momentum in cities across the world. New York City is no exception.

This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chief Technology Officer and New York City Economic Development Corporation President announced New York City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Neighborhood Innovation Lab bring together communities, government, educators, and technologists to research, develop and demonstrate innovative solutions to improve quality of life and enhance city services. The model for Neighborhood Innovation Labs was first announced at the White House in conjunction with President Obama’s Smart Cities Initiative in September 2015. It builds on City’s commitment to modernize public infrastructure, support neighborhood development, and bridge the digital divide.


“New York is a city of neighborhoods and there is no better way
to prepare communities for the future than by empowering residents
to define their needs and help our shape technology investments,”
said Mayor Bill de Blasio.


New technologies are transforming urban life and help pave the way for a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable future. Neighborhood Innovation Labs help ensure that cutting-edge technologies are integrated into city planning to the benefit of all New Yorkers.  In July, the first set of new technologies, such astrash cans that alert sanitation workers when they are full, solar-powered benches that offer free cell phone charging as well as interactive digital kiosks – will be rolled out in Brownsville. Community residents will be invited to test out these devices and share feedback that City agencies will use to evaluate the impact and value of these technologies. 


“Rapid technological advances hold the potential to transform our cities,
driving quality of life improvements for millions of New Yorkers,”
said Miguel Gamiño, Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York.


Living Labs is a method to create smarter and more liveable cities by testing solutions in different surroundings. Neighborhood innovation projects present a unique opportunity for tech companies and universities to respond to community-identified needs and test their technology solutions in a real-world environment with community feedback. Urban innovation is not just about digital technology. Emerging advances in design thinking can lead to equally remarkable progress in cities.

New York City’s Neighborhood Innovation Labs are supported by an initial $250,000-a-year funding allocation from the City. Based on the outcome of the first Neighborhood Innovation Lab in Brownsville, the City will explore expanding the initiative to all five boroughs. Members of the public interested in the project are invited to learn more and get involved: Neighborhood Innovation .


Living lab typologies from Greater Copenhagen

Greater Copenhagen is a smart city front-runner. Here, a multitude of new smart city technologies and solutions are being tested and developed across the ICT, cleantech, construction and transportation sectors. 

The smart city Copenhagen is a living laboratory for testing smart technologies to handle the challenges of urbanization and climate change. Around 250 companies are involved in smart city activities in Greater Copenhagen, and small companies make up two thirds of the smart city industry, offering attractive investment opportunities as well as bridgeheads for collaboration with the public sector in Denmark.


Copenhagen Solutions Lab is the City of Copenhagen’s incubator for smart city initiatives. It is a cross-sector partnership between the City administration, businesses, and knowledge institutions to create and test new ideas, technologies and solutions to real urban challenges.

Danish Outdoor Lightning Lab (DOLL) is a green lab for testing and developing the lighting solutions of the future supported by the Danish Energy Agency, the Capital Region and the Zealand Region. It is the largest showroom and test field for intelligent lightning and smart urban services in Europe.

Copenhagen Climate Resilient Neighborhood is the world’s first climate-change-adapted neighborhood. The project is an example on how methods can be used by cities to measure the co-benefits of climate action, adapting to climate change, whilst increasing quality of life.

Energy Lab Nordhavn is a full-scale smart city energy lab that demonstrates how electricity and heating, energy-efficient buildings and electric transport can be integrated into an intelligent, flexible and optimized energy system. The project integrates research, development and demonstration.


Early May, during the Smart Cities NYC Expo, Danish Cleantech Hub is co-hosting a session with NYC Mayor’s Office of Innovation and Technology and NYC Economic Development Corporation, where Copenhagen Capacity and partners will join us to discuss trans-Atlantic living lab typologies.


 TEXT: Klaus Lehn Christensen, Danish Cleantech Hub New York