MINI-LAB summary

The Devolution programme in Greater Manchester (GM), and similar city-regions around the UK, is a call for public services to ‘do more with less’, with ‘joined up thinking’, for problems which are complex and inter-connected.  This calls for a ‘triple helix’ type of collaboration between public, private and academic sectors. It calls for improved capacity in foresight and the ‘urban intelligence’ capacity for co-learning and co-innovation between all parts of society.

The Mini-Lab is an innovative partnership between the University of Manchester and the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Hub. It follows on 4 main collaborations in progress: Future of Cities: Eco-Cities / RESIN: Triangulum: and Living Labs. It will build and test a prototype for an urban collective (co)-intelligence and co-innovation.


The overall aim is to enhance research-policy links, with a demo prototype ‘triple helix’ model of urban co-innovation, in the cluster ‘low carbon retrofit for growth and inclusion’.  3 main objectives include:

(a) contribute to the urban shared-mind capacity for collective learning and thinking

(b) identify practical research-policy links and exchanges in this cluster:

(c) evaluate the prototype, and learn lessons for wider dissemination

This cluster includes a series of inter-connected topics:  economic development: housing retrofit: energy efficiency: fuel poverty: public health: Devolution policies: housing markets: green infrastructure: quality of life: social inclusion.


Mini-Lab framework


The Mini-Lab is based on the ‘synergistic toolkit’ for mapping complex systems in transition.  There are two ‘platforms’ working in parallel:

  • Social platform: triple-helix of stakeholders: knowledge exchange: co-learning & co-creation
  • Evidence platform: Policy material: academic material: spatial analysis:

First, the ‘baseline diagnosis’ looks at the present day issues, problems, linkages: then the ‘futures prognosis’ looks at goals, opportunities and ways forward.  Priority issues and topics are mapped as individual ‘use-cases’, each with social & technical material, at a variety of scales.  These are linked into a knowledge network or ‘shared-mind-scape’, i.e. a form of urban ‘co-intelligence’.



Academic benefits include:  enhanced research linkages, future collaborations, civic engagement, and leadership on a unique innovation with wide applications.

Benefits to the Greater Manchester partners include (a) practical contribution to ‘Low-Carbon Inclusive Growth’ cluster: (b) general contribution to co-innovation & collective (co)-intelligence. The priorities are policy innovation e.g. organization co-learning & co-creation:  financial innovation e.g. realizing social value-added & bridging market gaps: social innovation, e.g. community enterprise & empowerment.   This will help a foresight-type view on future opportunities, e.g. city-region energy partnership, or integrated retrofit model.


Expected outputs

  • 2 main stakeholder workshops with a variety of consultations, including inputs from city-region advisory group & international advisory group.
  • Online prototype platform as working demonstration
  • Synthesis report, thematic report & evaluation report, including:
  • Recommendations for policy & research programmes


Outcomes and impact

  • For academics, a demonstration prototype for ‘triple-helix’ co-innovation, for enhanced research impact.
  • For policy partners, thematic recommendations, & contribution to city-region co-learning and co-creation