After the final Reef workshop at Metrolab, @matthias and I had some fruitful discussions about how climate innovation would work in practice at The Reef. In this post, I try to summarize them roughly, so that we don’t forget them.
The action point is for me to call a meeting in December (ahead of writing the stage 2 proposal) with C-KIC, and for Matt to write two well-explained example of the type of innovations that could be developed in The Reef: emissions-saving, with a technological component and a social component.
We have always though of The Reef as a hybrid space: it is residential, but also commercial. People and small businesses live together, and exploit the resulting economies of scope (the coworking space becomes a great space for parties after 18.00, etc.). We now propose that part of the commercial space is allocated to a university lab on green living. The inspiration comes from Metrolab itself: interdisciplinary, result of the collaboration between two Belgian universities, EU-funded. The advantages:
Participatory climate innovation. The Lab offers residencies to researchers wishing to develop innovation around climate-friendly urban living. The Lab itself is the “academic home” of the researchers, and The Reef is their living home. This means that the innovation can be field-tested in The Reef (within reason). Further, “eat your own dog food” is built into the innovation project, because the researcher is embedded for real into the community he is innovating for. All this makes the work of innovating much more participatory.
Increased financial viability. Research funding pays for the living costs of the researcher(s), who live in (one of) The Reef’s guest room(s). This makes the exchange between the researchers and the permanent residents more fair; the latter help the former test her ideas, and the former pays rent, contributing to keeping the resident’s living costs affordable.
Cultural enrichment. The Reef selects residents also on the basis of their commitment to the planet. Going to lunch/hanging out with academics is likely to contribute to the way The Reef, as a community, moves forward, for example which changes in their way of living to adopt in the near future.
Promotes The Reef from “just another C-KIC project” to infrastructure for its mission. We can ask C-KIC to go through their community and help us put together a coalition of entities that would like to be part of this Lab. Should not be a difficult sell, since they are a major climate innovation funding agency! This should accelerate the whole process, create massive legitimacy (thus justifying public sector direct involvement), and expand the range of stakeholders who have an interest in making The Reef happen.