Living Labs

Copenhagen wheel
Living Labs at MIT

At the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS), a “living lab” is a place-based research concept that utilizes the college campus as a test-bed for innovation and knowledge generation. A form of experiential learning—a core component of MIT’s education ethos—living labs combine concrete experience, observation, reflection, and the formation and testing of new concepts.


More about how living labs and "lablets" work

“As we work to pioneer technologies and policies to help society combat climate change, we feel a keen responsibility to improve the sustainability of our campus and to use it as a test bed for faculty, student and staff ideas.”

President Reif in MIT’s Plan for Action on Climate Change

Characterized by rigorous campus-based research design, living labs involve the systematic and sustained collection of data and clearly defined research methodologies. While living labs are typically semester-long (or longer) partnerships between faculty, students, and administrative staff, we also seek to nurture “lablets”—projects of shorter duration or in the early stages of development.

Traditional laboratories bring to mind a highly controlled environment where scientists manipulate variables, record data, and repeat experiments with precision. The living laboratory, however, thrives on open systems, uncertainties, and diverse—rather than controlled—environments. The Cambridge sewer system, the cooling towers of the Central Utilities Plant, the online purchasing system used by administrative staff – these all become rich laboratories for learning and discovery under this framework.

Read about some Living Lab projects below.

Living Lab Idea Bank

Scales of Impact

The challenges of sustainability are both local and global. Creating transformative solutions requires deep collaboration among community leaders and members on campus, city and global scales.

It starts with you on campus.

We start with you to find solutions at the campus level to serve both the institution's needs as well as to incubate new and big ideas.

you, campus, city, globe