As the world faces complex challenges, universities have emerged as vital institutions for innovation, talent and knowledge creation. Beyond their traditional role in education, universities have transformed into smart campuses, offering a unique and dynamic living lab environment for research, experimentation, and technology innovation to tackle global challenges such as sustainability. In the Cisco and La Trobe University, “Smart Campus Living Lab – Transforming the University” report we delve into the role of universities as living labs, emphasising their research and innovation impact on sustainability through transforming the foundational secure network infrastructure that enables net zero.

1. Research Value: A Crucible of Innovation

Universities act as crucibles of innovation, where groundbreaking research takes place. As living labs, they provide a conducive setting for researchers, professors, and students to collaborate and explore real-world problems. This hands-on approach helps bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. For instance, engineering students can design and test prototypes, while social science researchers can conduct field studies to understand societal challenges better. As a result, universities contribute significantly to advancements in various fields, propelling societal progress.

2. Sustainability: Pioneering the Path to a Greener Future

In the face of pressing environmental concerns, universities are embracing their role as living labs to drive sustainable practices. These institutions serve as testing grounds for eco-friendly technologies, renewable energy solutions, and resource management strategies. By implementing sustainable practices on campus, such as smart buildings, hybrid work/learning, waste reduction initiatives, and energy-efficient systems, universities lead by example, inspiring students and the wider community to adopt environmentally responsible behaviours. The research conducted within these living labs also supports sustainable development goals and provides data-driven solutions to global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource scarcity.

3. The Foundational Secure Digital Network Infrastructure: Enabling Seamless Innovation

The true capability of a university as a living lab lies in its foundational secure digital network – enabling the seamless collaboration between faculties, departments, industry partners, and the community, in addition to enabling modern tools such as advanced digital infrastructure and the effective adoption of digital technologies, including AI/ML, IoT, network as a platform, cybersecurity, and digital twins.


As demonstrated in the aforementioned report, the value of a university as a living lab cannot be overstated. From advancing research and innovation to leading the way towards sustainability and meeting net zero goals, these institutions play a pivotal role in shaping a brighter future for humanity. By embracing the foundational secure digital network that connects the living lab, universities enable a collaborative and holistic approach to solving complex challenges in a practical real-world environment. As we move forward, it is imperative to recognise the immense potential of university campuses as living labs and to support their endeavours to create a more sustainable world and an inclusive future for all.

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Chris Owens

Business Solutions Architect