Real-life environments have been used and framed as natural laboratories in which to study and develop new knowledge and understandings of human behaviour since the start of the last century (if not before). Likewise, urban researchers have been studying the phenomenon of urban experimentation for a long time (Bulkeley and Castán Broto 2013; Karvonen et al. 2014). Over the last decade, the city has been increasingly cast as a laboratory for the study of sustainable development (Evans and Karvonen 2011). In particular, an increasing number of institutions call themselves a ‘living lab’, demonstrating the level of interest in this concept from many different stakeholders, such as universities, science parks, business and local governments. Living labs have an appeal as they can suggest rigour and innovation, and in some instances become almost a model for urban development (Evans and Karvonen 2014).