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CSIRO launches first operational Urban Living Lab in Sydney

Last month, OpenGov reported on the establishment of Melbourne transport living lab, in a project led by the University of Melbourne and driven through a collaboration between government, academia and private sector. Singapore's Changi Airport also launched a ‘Changi Airport Living Lab Programme’, in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board  to drive innovation over the coming 5 years. Now the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has established its first operational Urban Living Lab at the Sydney Science Park in western Sydney, in partnership with property developers Celestino. It is yet another example of a public-private partnership for enabling research into sustainable cities and developing and testing innovative solutions in a real-world environment. The Living Lab concept enables simultaneous testing of solutions, accelerating deployment.

The Sydney Science Park is a new $5bn project set over 280 hectares and is expected to create over 12,000 knowledge based jobs, cater to over 10,000 students and be home to over 10,000 residents.

The Lab will be a hub for research into liveable urban spaces and sustainable cities of the future. It will provide a real urban environment for analysing issues such as urban greening, energy efficiency, demands for water, community well-being and health and the impacts of technological advancements and understanding connections between them.

A related blog post on CSIRO explained the rationale for the project, saying that with over 75% of Australians now living in cities, and Australia’s population projected to double to 46 million by 2075, smarter urban planning is required, in contrast with ad-hoc responses to short-term social, economic, political and institutional pressures. Cities of the future will need to be sustainable and resilient to accommodate growing population and deal with climate change.

The press release provides a few examples of research topics currently under consideration: 1) The impact of increased urban greening on local temperatures and ecology, changes in energy and water demand and consumption, and the influence on community well-being and health; 2) Smart water systems that can efficiently provide different classes of water for different uses on demand; 3) The influence of digital disruptions and information technology advances on urban structure, industry development and community connectivity.

While some innovations could be implemented quickly with demonstrable impact, longer-term projects could take 5–10 years to come to fruition. Inventors will be connected to mentors, scientific expertise and venture capital.Successful prototypes will be commercialized and rolled out to the market, under the supervision and support of CSIRO and partners.

Assistant Minister for Science Craig Laundy, who launched the lab, highlighted the economic impact, “It’s great to see CSIRO engaging in this public-private collaboration which will not only tackle important issues for our cities, but also provide a boost to the local economy with jobs and opportunities for STEM students.” CSIRO Land and Water Acting Director Paul Bertsch said, “By working with government and industry, our research will enable Australia’s cities to become more economically, environmentally and socially resilient.”

Read the press release here.

Featured image: Celestino

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