Our Research

What is Co-creation?

When diverse actors such as companies, universities, policy makers, and citizens collaboratively participate in mutually enabled or supported innovation processes, they engage in co-creation practices. Co-creation takes many shapes, which is why we employ different disciplinary angles to better identify and understand its characteristics and outcomes. In building our analytical framework, we make use of critical perspectives stemming from Science and Technology Studies (STS), with particular attention to:

  • Responsible Innovation
  • Social Robustness
  • Diversity in Innovation
  • Limits of Standardization

Our approach complements insights informed by other disciplines, such as Innovation Studies, Public Policy and Law, Management and Economics, Philosophy and Ethics.

We study 3 Co-creation Instruments …

Living Labs
LLs take the development of new technologies from traditional settings to real-world conditions. Within these sites, new forms of collective invention and experimentation test and demonstrate new technologies, as well as future sociotechnical arrangements.

Public Procurement of Innovation
PPI schemes put the public sector and its purchasing power among the primary drivers for addressing public concerns through the adoption of innovative solutions. As they steer the innovation process, public end-users also become co-creators by identifying collective needs and working hand-in-hand with solution providers.

Co-creation Facilities
CCFs are open, physical, or virtual infrastructures for collaborative innovation. In addition to providing lab space, expertise, and equipment for internal staff and external users, they act as platforms for “Triple Helix” interactions between academia, companies, and policy makers.

… Across 3 Technological Domains

Robots increasingly find their way into our everyday life. So-called collaborative robots, or co-bots, are designed to work closely together with and for humans in heterogeneous application areas, from education to healthcare, and manufacturing. However, a plethora of concerns often accompanies their use in social settings: How can they operate safely in delicate environments such as hospitals or schools? How can hacking or other types of malicious software manipulation be prevented? Co-bots greatly depend on co-creation efforts among diverse stakeholders – developers, operators, end-users, and citizens – to find answers to these questions. 

Autonomous Driving
Autonomous vehicles are central to smart city discourses. Regardless of their potential benefits, the transition to new modes of transport often raises complex ethical and social questions: Who is accountable in an unavoidable collision? Who has access to this transport and when? Who is affected when large-scale changes to the cities’ infrastructure make roads suitable for autonomous vehicles? Co-creation enables cities to carefully consider these questions together with municipalities, researchers, manufacturers, and citizens.

Urban Energy
Energy provision is key to reaching a sustainable future, a topic that concerns many European citizens. Families install photovoltaic systems on their roofs, house owners adjust their buildings to higher energy efficiency standards, and rural communities show concern over the construction of a new wind park near natural reserves. Values such as freedom, justice, autonomy, security, and control need to be negotiated between stakeholders to ensure any new energy system is compatible with the norms and values of the society in which it is to operate. Co-creation is increasingly happening in smart city contexts, where industry-academia-government collaborations are on the rise.

scaling up icon Why Scaling up?

Just as businesses scale up their activities to increase their market presence, the EU research framework relies on scalable concepts, such as smart cities, to broaden its outreach. Mainstream co-creation practices across different contexts rarely reach their identified targets. In fact, in today’s diverse social, cultural, and organizational context, standardized practices are unlikely to solve the issues that arise. Take as an example a social robot developed together with patients and doctors specifically for a hospital in Barcelona: while it may be successful in that space, it may not be optimally suited every care environment.

SCALINGS aims to understand how co-creation relates to unique contexts; it is interested in learning the conditions under which co-creation practices can scale up across regional and technical domains. 

Our Research Unfolds in 3 Stages

1 Collect Experiences

Through qualitative methods, we carry out the in-depth analysis of various case studies involving leading co-creation practitioners. Each consortium partner focuses on cases located in its geographical proximity. 

We compare how different actors use co-creation instruments in different local and technological contexts, aiming to identify and reflect on similarities and differences, best practices or failures.

2 Test & Engage

We seek to operationalize our findings by bringing them back into the field and, together with our empirical partners, conduct experimental interventions. We organize workshops and other opportunities for reflection to actively engage with our partners and their initiatives, offering our insights for the enhancement of their current co-creation practices, as well as our support to achieve more robust results.

3 Disseminate

Throughout numerous public and case-study-specific events, we disseminate our findings among diverse communities, reaching out to co-creation practitioners, technology developers and manufacturers, public authorities, citizens, students, and researchers. 

An EU policy roadmap will present key takeaways from our research to inform future co-creative instruments and practices of innovation and guide their scale-up within and beyond Europe.

Our Impact

SCALINGS will be the anchor point for future scaling activities across different contexts. We have and will continue to develop sound frameworks for ‘situated co-creation’ and ‘socially robust scaling’, an educational training program, as well as an EU policy roadmap. Through this work, industry practitioners, policy-makers, researchers, and citizens both within the EU and beyond will benefit from our results.

Empower Citizens

We foster co-creation practices that are aligned with the needs, norms and values of local populations. To achieve this, we work in close cooperation with our case study partners and implement our findings in collaborative and reflexive settings.

We hereby place great emphasis on questions of social justice, diversity, and inclusion. Not only does this contribute to better-targeted innovation practices and policy support, but also meaningful roles for citizens in the innovation process.  

Inspire Policies

We draft an EU Policy Roadmap to mainstream co-creation in a responsible and socially robust way. The roadmap is based on a comparative analysis of both existing co-creation policies across the EU and the specific opportunities and challenges for socially inclusive and diverse co-creation practices at the SCALINGS field sites.

In this way, we synthesize our findings into a programmatic agenda that will help policy-makers harness international “best practices” in a manner that is suited to their own socio-cultural particularities.

Shape Practices

We will shape industry and business practices by providing guidance for scaling up activities across contexts.

As we cooperate closely with case study partners, we implement our frameworks for ‘situated co-creation’ and ‘socially robust scaling’ together with practitioners and thus co-create enhanced practices that feed directly back into their work and strategy.

Moreover, we will disseminate our findings to other European consortia-in-the-making through a training program (‘boot camp’) to enhance their sensitivity for socio-cultural differences in co-creation while learning from international best practices.