Living Labs and Soil Lighthouses

The European Union Mission “A Soil Deal for Europe ” aims to establish 100 Living Labs and Lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils by 2030.

What are soil health Living Labs and Lighthouses?

Living Labs as real-life test and experimentation environments that foster co-creation and open innovation among the main actors of the Quadruple Helix Model, namely Citizens, Government, Industry, and Academia (ENoLL, European Network of Living Labs). Aggregating the key elements of the ENoLL definition and of a working group of the G20 agricultural chief scientists on agroecological living labs, the European Commission has developed a more specific definition customised for soil health living labs. This definition is presented in the Soil Mission Implementation Plan.

Within the Soil Deal Mission, Living Labs are collaborative initiatives to co-create knowledge and innovations, while Lighthouses are places for demonstration of solutions and exemplary achievements. 

More specifically:
Soil Health Living Labs are defined as user-centred, place-based, and transdisciplinary research and innovation ecosystems, which involve land managers, scientists, and other relevant partners in systemic research and codesign, testing, monitoring and evaluation of solutions, in real-life settings, to improve their effectiveness for soil health and accelerate adoption. These Living Labs are collaborations between multiple partners that operate at regional or sub-regional level and coordinate experiments on several sites within a regional or sub-regional area (or working landscapes).

Lighthouses are defined as places for demonstration of solutions, training and communication that are exemplary in their performance in terms of soil health improvement. They are local sites (one farm, one forest exploitation, one industrial site, one urban city green area, etc.) that can be included in a living lab area or be situated outside a living lab area.

Living Labs and Lighthouses in the Soil Deal Mission

Living Labs and Lighthouses are a core element of the mission to accelerate the creation and uptake of solutions to meet the Soil Deal Mission objectives across different settings, as well as different geographical, and socio-economic contexts.

Living Labs are the place where existing and new knowledge are further transformed into innovation with real impact and a high potential for rapid uptake across Europe, while Lighthouses support the demonstration of exemplary solutions and exemplary achievements.

By working directly with users in real-life settings, Living Labs drastically improve the understanding of the cultural and socio-economic drivers of change, making sure that solutions developed improve soil health, ecosystem services and are in line with people’s values, priorities, and economic realities.

You can learn more about the role of Living Labs and Lighthouses in the transition towards healthy soils in the video below, produced by the SMS project: