Call for research proposals: Living Labs Grant

Terms of Reference


There exists a significant disconnect between research and practice. Researchers often lack knowledge of real-life policy dilemmas and the realities on the ground, while policymakers may lack the time and motivation to engage with academic publications. Additionally, research findings are often inadequately communicated in a manner that is not adapted to policymakers. To bridge this gap, ICLD offers Local Democracy Labs for local governments who want input from prominent researchers on a given policy dilemma. Seeing the need and willingness to deepen these engagements and build on the initial discussion, ICLD now offers the opportunity to apply for funds to co-create solutions to municipalities’ expressed dilemmas, together with affected communities and other stakeholders. In the format of a living lab,municipalities together with researchers and relevant stakeholders can gather to develop democratic and human rights-oriented working methods and policy measures. Perspectives, knowledge and experiences from users and decision-makers are thus combined with scientific knowledge, in order to address complex issues and enhance democratic participation.  

See “About Living Labs” at the bottom of the page.

This is a continuous call with rolling application and granting.


This project aims to create an enabling environment, facilitate an iterative process and the implementation of a solution, strategy, policy and practice that can support local governments in their projects of change. The longer-term objective is to connecting research and practice in order to increase democratic engagement and improve equity, participation, accountability and transparency. Ultimately, creating measurable impact on people’s ability to influence decision that affect them. A living lab is a space for co-creation and exploration of innovative methods and policies towards increased influence for marginalised groups and citizens in the decisions of the local government.


The call is open to researchers who have taken part in a Local Democracy Lab and want to continue working with the participating local government, with the Lab discussion as point of departure. The research question does not need to be the same as the lab question but related to the topic covered. The local government should be part of the ICLD Municipal Partnership Programme.

The proposed project should:

  • Address the problem discussed in the local democracy lab.
  • Take a co-leading role with the local government in facilitating the living lab, to co-create a policy solutions that is tested and evaluated during the project duration (together with the local government officials, affected citizens and any relevant stakeholders).
  • Collect data that can help better understand the problem (this may include surveys, interviews, citizens cards, photo voice, focus groups, transect walks, participatory methods, etc).
  • Document the impact of the living lab: The researchers should collect data that measures the impact of the pilot project (in terms of increased ability of citizens to influence the local government decisions) and reflect on lessons learned and replicability in other contexts.


At the end of the project, researchers should submit four outputs.

  1. A research report describing the problem, methodology, activities and the co-creation process, the contribution, and lessons learned.
  2. A poster illustrating the main impact of the project.
  3. Partaking in at least one dissemination or learning activity led by ICLD after the end of the project.
  4. A financial report of how the funds were used. The financial report should be signed by an accredited auditor. ICLD can only sign a research contract with a university or organisation (NGO), but not with private persons. 

Expected timeline

The project should be ongoing approximately 12 months. Research teams are welcome to suggest and motivate a timeline that best suits the proposed activities and objectives.


The total budget for the proposals should not exceed 250 000 SEK including VAT. The proposed budget shall specify personnel, operational and overhead costs, with an overhead of maximum 15%. 


Researchers who have been part of Local Democracy Labs or other ICLD activities together with local governments in the Municipal Partnership Programme are eligible to apply as main applicant. Other researchers can be part of the research team. The team should submit a research proposal using ICLD’s system SBS Manager.

The portal requires an account to be made by the main applicant. The account and portal will also be used for contract writing, reporting and other administration around the grant. Make sure to start the application procedure well in advance of the deadline, to leave room for any unclarities and need for support.

Please use the following template: Research Proposal Template

The application must be developed in close collaboration with the relevant local government and list at least one local government representative as co-applicant. A joint meeting may be held prior to approving a project to confirm the political commitment.

Applications are received on a rolling basis, maximum 3 months after a Local Democracy Lab.

Note: There is also a possibility to apply for an After-Lab Grant for a shorter and briefer engagement.

About Living Labs

What are Living Labs?

Living labs are collaborative research and development environments that involve users, stakeholders, and researchers in the co-creation and testing of innovative products, services, and systems in real-life contexts. They are typically situated in a specific geographical area, such as a city, and focus on addressing local challenges and opportunities. Living labs can help local governments identify and understand the challenges faced by their communities. Researchers can work with local governments to co-create and test solutions that address these challenges, ensuring that the solutions are relevant and effective.

Living labs are characterized by their open and participatory approach, which involves engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including citizens, businesses, government agencies, and academia. The goal of living labs is to create an environment that fosters experimentation, learning, and innovation, and that supports the development of new solutions that are better suited to the needs of users and the broader community. Fuglesang and Hansen (2022) distinguish three purposes of living labs: processual learning (with lower intensity of stakeholder involvement), aiming to create a more responsive approach to innovation in the public sector internally; restrained space for collaborative innovation (medium intensity of stakeholder involvement), with the idea that direct involvement addresses systemic aspects of innovation and societal needs; and democratic engagement (high intensity of involvement), against the background that citizens and communities have legitimate ideas that are not sufficiently considered, and aiming to create for effective solutions with a commitment to democratic values and justice.

Examples of living labs include urban innovation hubs, smart cities initiatives, and environmental planning. Living labs can be found in a variety of contexts, such as healthcare, education, transportation, energy, and sustainability. They are increasingly being used as a way to promote social innovation and to address complex social and environmental challenges. By working together in this way, local governments, citizens and researchers can co-create solutions with that are tailored to the specific needs of their communities and that support the principles of local democracy.

Living Labs vs Local Democracy Labs

Unlike ICLD’s Local Democracy Labs, the implementation phase is not a one-off event but rather a continuous process that involves multiple iterations of testing and refinement. Living labs are typically run and facilitated by a team of experts that includes researchers and project managers. This team is responsible for coordinating the activities of the living lab, recruiting participants, and managing the data collection and analysis process. There should be local ownership of the process.

Preparing for a living lab may involve:

  • Defining the scope and objectives: The first step is to clearly define the scope and objectives of the living lab. This involves identifying the problem or challenge that the living lab will address, defining the target user groups, and outlining the expected outcomes.
  • Identifying stakeholders: The success of a living lab depends on the participation of a wide range of stakeholders, including users, businesses, government agencies, and academia. Identifying and engaging with these stakeholders early on is critical to the success of the living lab.
  • Selecting the location: The location of the living lab should be carefully selected based on the needs of the target users and the availability of resources. It should be easily accessible and conducive to collaboration and experimentation.
  • Setting up the infrastructure: The living lab requires a range of infrastructure and resources, including physical space, equipment, and technology. These should be carefully selected and set up to support the needs of the living lab.
  • Developing the methodology: The living lab methodology should be carefully developed to ensure that it is suitable for the specific problem or challenge being addressed. This involves identifying the research questions, selecting appropriate data collection methods, and developing the evaluation framework.
  • Recruiting participants: Recruiting participants is a critical step in the living lab process. Participants should be carefully selected based on their relevance to the problem or challenge being addressed, and should be willing and able to actively participate in the living lab.
  • Implementing the living lab: The living lab should be implemented according to the defined methodology, with careful attention to the needs of the participants and the objectives of the living lab.
  • Evaluating the outcomes: The living lab should be evaluated to assess its effectiveness in achieving its objectives. This involves collecting and analyzing data, and using the findings to inform future iterations of the living lab.

Recommended resources

  • Fuglsang, L., and A. V. Hansen. 2022. “Framing Improvements of Public Innovation in a Living Lab Context: Processual Learning, Restrained Space and Democratic Engagement.” Research Policy 51 (1):
  • Timo von Wirth, Lea Fuenfschilling, Niki Frantzeskaki & Lars Coenen (2019) Impacts of urban living labs on sustainability transitions: mechanisms and strategies for systemic change through experimentation, European Planning Studies, 27:2, 229-257, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2018.1504895
  • Rianne Dekker, Juan Franco Contreras & Albert Meijer (2020) The Living Lab as a Methodology for Public Administration Research: a Systematic Literature Review of its Applications in the Social Sciences, International Journal of Public Administration, 43:14, 1207-1217, DOI: 10.1080/01900692.2019.1668410


Clara Orstadius, Research Officer, +46 (0)70-984 07 05
Sustainable Development Goals
17 - Partnerships for the goals
Forskning, Research,