© DOLL website: https://doll-livinglab.com/

Aims and scope

DOLL (Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab) is Europe's largest test field, showroom, and innovation hub within the field of intelligent lighting. Its living lab is located in the suburban municipality of Albertslund, located some 15 kilometres west of Copenhagen. DOLL is based on a partnership between various public actors – the municipality of Albertslund, the Danish Technical University (DTU) and the regional partnership promoting green transition Gate 21, which is also located in Albertslund. The partnership was funded by the state’s Green Lab DK programme as well as by the municipality of Albertslund.

Whereas the initial aim of using the living lab as a testbed for LED solutions was energy efficiency, today the living lab has broadened its activities to include Smart City solutions across mobility and parking, Internet of Things (IoT) communication systems, environmental monitoring, waste management, indoor lighting, and driverless busses. DOLL also plays a pivotal role in Albertslund’s Smart City strategy by testing solutions in the following three objectives: increasing quality of welfare services, accelerating sustainable green transition, and supporting innovation and growth of the business community.

The living lab has proven to be a well-functioning format for collaboration between public and private partners as well as for involving citizens in decision-making. With regards to the former, the living lab follows a fairly simple setup in which DOLL provides the basic infrastructure and a visitor centre, and private actors rent parcels on a three year basis without any further requirements than staying within Danish regulations. This has proven to be a format with several synergies for its partners, enabling a strong and sustainable collaboration between the parties involved. Unlike other Smart City initiatives, DOLL has been able to maintain a rather stable income by financing the operation of the living lab from the companies which rent its parcels.

The municipality of Albertslund has experimented with using the living lab to visualise possible future solutions by appointing a team of citizen ‘light ambassadors’ to represent the various residential areas that will be subject to the replacement of outdoor lighting. This initiative has involved not only educating the ‘lighting ambassadors’ in the new technologies, but also involving them in the development of solutions and local level decision-making.

 

Main collaboration challenges and conditions for successful collaboration

DOLL has coped with a number of challenges throughout the collaboration. Firstly, they faced the challenge of, on one hand, getting companies to understand the everyday practices and constraints at the user level and, on the other hand, getting the practitioners in the local public authorities to understand the potential benefits and pitfalls of the new technologies. DOLL’s trust-based relationship to key employees in the municipality has been vital to coping with this potential barrier for collaboration and innovation.

Secondly, to address the challenge of getting citizens to understand and take part in the development of new solutions, DOLL and the municipality of Albertslund have experimented with including citizens through the appointment of so-called ’light ambassadors’.

Third, there was the challenge that the actors involved in DOLL possessed quite different rationales for, and interests in, participating. The companies involved were interested in developing businesses and therefore served to profit from participating. There was therefore also a challenge of competition among the companies involved, some of which are also part of DOLL. The municipality, on the other hand, has other interests, such as finding cost-effective solutions and attracting jobs to the area. The institutional design of DOLL served to circumvent these potential challenges since it is built upon the idea that actors collaborate because they are interdependent. Companies in this sector are increasingly recognising that, apart from the largest players, they cannot develop innovative solutions alone and therefore need to form partnerships. From the public actors’ perspectives, collaboration beyond the municipal borders is seen as the ‘only way to get smarter’. This applies not only to collaboration between municipalities but also with the private sector, which in turn has its own competences and insights.

 

Implications and lessons learned

The case study identifies a number of different variables that are all important to explain the challenges and successes of DOLL. The Danish horizontal, trust-based way of collaborating as well as its particular history of prioritising energy policy are important contextual variables to note. Equally important factors to note are the distinct history of the municipality of Albertslund as a progressive and green front runner, as well as the role of certain individuals, in particular the founder of DOLL.

It is worth highlighting the peculiar institutional design of DOLL. Although private actors play a key role in DOLL, the design is not ‘market-based’ since it is not driven by competition or outsourcing, but rather it is run by a network-based collaboration of public actors which private actors are also welcome to join. The commitment and performance of the private actors engaging in DOLL is not ensured by contracts or performance measurement, but rather by ensuring that the companies have an interest in joining and staying in DOLL through the possibility of developing and testing solutions (in living lab) and through access to showcasing solutions to public buyers (via the visitors’ centre). Thus, DOLL functions as a platform for co-creation between public and private actors. Furthermore, the horizontal institutional design of DOLL grants a high degree of responsibility and decision-making authority to both the staff of DOLL as well as the employees organising the collaboration internally in the municipality with DOLL and its partners. This allows for a horizontal, informal and agile process of decision-making in the projects. Rather than through detailed performance measurement or a hierarchical chain of command, it is thus the close collaboration with end-users and DOLL’s proximity to the political level that ensures the accountability of the activities of DOLL.


Further materials/sources

  • Website of DOLL. Available here.
  • ’Future Technologies Series: Technologies Changing the World - An Introduction, DOLL Living Lab’ Canopy Lab: https://bit.ly/32im0x4
  • Website of Gate 21. Available here.
  • Chittum, A., Østergaard, P.A.(2014) How Danish communal heat planning empowers municipalities and benefits individual consumers. Energy Policy, 74, 465–474. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2014.08.001

About the Author

Magnus Paulsen Hansen, Roskilde University

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