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August 2019

Thessaloniki: The Greek city Of ‘‘Living Labs’’

By | News

Want to be a high tech product creator in your 70s? ‘‘Why not!’’, answer the members of the ‘‘Captain’’ programme of the Sports Medicine Laboratory of AUTh, which applies the ‘‘living lab’’ method. The goal is to create a smart consultant, an innovative technology product aimed at the elderly, which displays information in different parts of the house to help them make decisions and solve problems. ‘‘The old man stands in front of the refrigerator. Then the smart consultant realises it and displays suggestions on the fridge for a healthy snack’’, mentions as an example Evdokimos Konstantinidis, a postdoctoral researcher and technical coordinator of the ‘‘Captain’’ programme.

As Mr. Konstantinidis explains, around 70 seniors are actively involved in the product design and meet with the researchers on a regular basis. Through exercises and discussions they express what their real needs are in the meetings and critically assess each step of the smart consultant’s design. This co-creation is basically at the heart of the method called ‘‘living lab’’.

As Mr. Konstantinidis points out, the team has managed to gain the trust of the elderly by constantly demonstrating to them that their contribution is essential for the creation of the product. ‘‘In this environment, the elderly open up and become very creative’’, he mentions, adding that they have contributed such good ideas to the process that the team is now looking for ways to provide them with the corresponding copyright.

The programme, under which AUTh collaborates with another 14 bodies, including research centres, universities and companies, is expected to be completed in 18 months.


Rooms – living labs

AUTh’s Living Lab, Thessaloniki Active & Healthy Ageing Living Lab (Thess-a-hall) has also created other innovative living labs in its five years of operation.

For the needs of the ‘‘Captain’’ programme, the lab has created within its site a simulation of a normal home with a kitchen and a living room inviting seniors to spend one to two hours of their day there, three times a week. During this time, the house, which had hidden sensors, was collecting data on the behaviour of the tenants. In fact, four of the participants agreed to have the sensors placed in their home for the next two years. At the same time, a corresponding specially designed living space for the purposes of experimentation has also been placed in the Chariseio Nursing Home.


Only in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is the only part in Greece that has ‘‘Living Labs’’, which is fully compatible with the fact that the Alexander Innovation Zone is located in the city and is the one that systematically promotes development for innovations. It is therefore not accidental that some 400 living labers will gather in Thessaloniki in September to participate in the 10th Living Labs International Conference, entitled Open Living Lab Days. The creation of another living lab, which will be implemented in the city, will also be announced during the gathering.

The conference takes place every year in a different city and this year will be the first to host the event at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall from September 3 to 5 organised by the Thessaloniki Active & Healthy Ageing Living Lab of the Sports Medicine Laboratory of AUTh and the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL).

Its goal is to co-create today’s and tomorrow’s social innovation while addressing each and every one, including public officials, social agencies, academics, innovative start-uppers and ordinary citizens.

During the conference, representatives of more than 30 ‘‘Living Labs’’ will work for three whole days with bodies from the European and the International Social Innovation Community to highlight the local problems and turn them into global opportunities as well as invite anyone interested in participating in developing new products, innovative services and solutions to everyday issues, in a real-time social environment, promoting the principles of responsible development and social innovation.

Taking part in the event practically translates into knowledge and experience offered through 40 workshops, in areas such as: the future of urban mobility, the ‘’Living Labs’’ as a learning environment for entrepreneurship in universities, agricultural practices and rural development, the development of ‘‘Living Labs’’ in the energy sector, co-created health and wellbeing products for vulnerable population groups.

Those interested in setting up their own ‘‘Living Lab’’ can attend a one-day training seminar before the official launch of the Open Living Lab Days (OLLDs).

Supporters of this year’s institution are the URENIO Research Unit of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki as well as the Open Knowledge Foundation Greece (OKFN Greece), while the conference is under the auspices of the Faculty of Health Sciences of AUTh.

More information at

Which global cities Want to be Silicon Valley

By | News

Many major cities, such as London and New York, have seen their technology sectors grow rapidly, while others, such as Sydney, are moving ahead with central government plans to obtain their own Silicon Valley. Many of the world’s largest cities are becoming technology hubs, but in fact only few could be described as … the next Silicon Valley. Given that the Alexander Innovation Zone S.A. operates in Thessaloniki systematically to promote innovation within the region, all the good examples and well-formed practices are always under its … microscope. Business Insider has identified six cities around the world that are heading in this direction, as not only do they manage to attract new employees, but they also create the necessary lifestyle – e.g. in the luxury real estate market – which characterizes this transformation.

Tel Aviv

Israel, what many call the ‘‘next Silicon Valley’’ or the ‘‘Nation of Start-ups’’, has revolutionized the technology industry, as it has become a world leader in biotechnology, cyber technology, artificial intelligence, online games and high-tech agriculture. Israel hosts more startups per capita than any other country on the planet and it also attracts a lot of investment funds for this purpose. With respect to the technology hubs, Tel Aviv ranks second after Silicon Valley. Multinational technology giants, such as Google, Oracle and Facebook, have already set up research centres in or near the city of Tel Aviv, while Amazon opened its Tel Aviv office last October.


Berlin is also experiencing tremendous technological development; a city which houses hackers, security experts, scientists and video companies, while technology giants like Apple and Facebook have offices in the German capital. After Brexit, many British tech startups moved to the relatively cheap city of Berlin, which at the same time gives them access to the European market. From 2015 to 2017, startups in Berlin grew by 9% – the highest growth among all European cities – with 70% of these companies headquartered there. And although technological advances usually lead to rising real estate prices, Berlin’s real estate prices are affordable, so both employees and businesses are given the opportunity to own spacious houses and offices. Given all these, the city is attracting talents from all over the world.


With more than 14,000 technology companies, 3,000 of which were created in 2018, the tech industry represents 40% of the economic activity of the Chinese city. Five technology giants are at the heart of the economic activity, with two of them – Tencent Holdings and Huawei Technologies – employing a total of 234,000 employees. The city is part of China’s government plan to create the US Silicon Valley rival. The advance of the technology sector has greatly improved the living standards of the residents which has led to the boom of the country’s construction sector, especially the luxury real estate, changing Shenzhen’s profile. The Chinese city is now among the five most expensive in the world in the real estate field.


The growth of startups started in Lisbon ten years ago and nowadays the Portuguese capital has become an important technology hub in Europe. In 2016 the Portuguese government set up a national network of technology hubs and startups thanks to the StartUP Voucher initiative which provides subsidies and facilities to such businesses. 700 high-tech companies settled in Lisbon from 2014 to 2016, while a former camp is expected to become a huge startup campus. Tech industry workers have revitalized the Portuguese capital’s real estate market at the same time.


Experts regard Bangalore as the “Silicon Valley of India” thanks to the variety of tech companies based there that deal with artificial intelligence, food technology and robotics. Over 400 multinational tech companies, such as Microsoft and Samsung, have offices there, while there are several local companies, such as Infosys and Wipro. Many consider Bangalore to be the most dynamic city in the world, while its technological boom began 25 years ago. The city’s GDP is expected to grow by 60% over the next five years.


‘‘The Tech Superstar from the North’’ hosts a number of software development companies, while its economic prosperity began in 2009. Within just five years, technology investments have tripled to $ 377 million, while more than 22,000 companies are headquartered in Stockholm, including giants like Spotify and video game company, King. The sector has also benefited from public investment in high-speed internet, with Stockholm now having its own identity just like San Francisco has Silicon Valley.