Living Lab: Innovation for the Home Energy Market

The Living Lab is a safe and affordable, real-world test environment for trialling new energy products, services and business models, with the aim of de-risking and scaling innovations for market.

With 100 digitally connected smart-homes, the Living Lab is truly open, interoperable and scalable – after undergoing significant upgrades over six-months in 2020 – including a new digital integration platform.

Innovative businesses can rapidly design, market-test and launch smart energy innovations that can be integrated with mainstream smart heating controls, smart meters, IoT devices, and electric vehicle chargers.

The Living Lab also provides national capability to test and demonstrate market arrangements, policy and regulations with real consumers – as we move towards a Net Zero carbon future.

What is the Living Lab?

The Living Lab is made up of 100 existing homes spread across Newcastle, Manchester, South Wales, Gloucestershire and the West Midlands – that have been upgraded/retrofitted to become digitally connected smart-homes.

Most homes are owner-occupied – a few include social housing tenants – with a range of building types and occupancy profiles:

  • All have smart heating controls and sensors, (the majority using tado°), connected to a new cloud-based digital integration platform,
  • Some homes have air source heat pumps installed alongside gas boilers, most have regular gas boilers,
  • Smart meter integration is available.

The new digital integration platform means the Living Lab is now truly open, interoperable and scalable, enabling innovations to integrate via an API with mainstream smart heating controlssmart metersIoT devices, and electric vehicle chargers. New integrations will be added in response to evolving policy and market needs.

The Living Lab leverages Catapult capabilities – including Consumer Insight, Digital & Data, Business Model Innovation and Systems Integration – along with those of our partners,

How can the Living Lab help you?

There are a number of benefits to trialling in the Living Lab:

  • Validate – the performance of your products or service with real consumers in real homes,
  • Better understand – how people use your product or service and how well it works,
  • Improve – your offering using feedback from real consumers and monitoring data,
  • Save time – our existing 100 homes are ready to go, or utilise our experience to recruit new homes,
  • Value for money – you don’t need to build a lab of your own.

What can you trial in the Living Lab?

Energy providers, device manufacturers and technology companies can trial a range of products, services, business models and market arrangements in a proven, government-backed 100-home test bed.

The upgraded Living Lab, with new digital integration platform developed by SysMech ensures interoperability, and enables:

  • Products – innovative energy products and smart devices can be installed quickly and easily into homes,
  • Energy service – propositions can be trialled with mainstream smart home controls,
  • Flexibility – carry out behind-the-meter flexibility service trials,
  • Business Models – customer value propositions to be tested with real consumers,
  • Data – access to a wealth of consumer and technical data, to rapidly design, market-test and launch smart energy innovations,

Energy Products

If you are developing or selling products (eg. heating, home monitoring, electric vehicle smart charging), we can offer them to real homes and learn about how consumers use them.

You will learn:

  • What consumers like about your product and how much they are willing to pay,
  • Insights into how consumers use your product,
  • How it performs in a real-world home environment (eg. is it cheaper/better with your product than before, what is the overall impact on homes and consumers).

Energy Services

The Living Lab allows innovators to learn how to sell energy as a service with real consumers. Industry has been talking about energy as a service for years, but few companies have developed a market proposition – the Living Lab changes that.

Uniquely, you can market-test smart energy services through our digital, online marketplace. As these are real homes, we will offer your service or product to residents in a market trial – a great way to find out if people like your offer and what they might be willing to pay for it.

You will learn:

  • Who buys your service offering and why (and who doesn’t and why not) including consumer demographics,
  • How much consumers are willing to pay for your service and how they use it,
  • What it costs you to serve them.

What else can we help with?

We want to accelerate your innovation from idea to impact with the least effort. To help you we have a range of additional services, such as:

Energy Systems Catapult will also use the Living Lab to gather evidence to inform policy design and to trial new policy and regulatory measures with quality insight and huge amounts of data provided into how consumers respond. For both private and public sector stakeholders, Living Lab provides a potential pathway to facilitate a more open, competitive and fair market, for instance through co-creation of digital interoperability standards and consumer protection measures.