Innovation labs have fast become a growing occurrence across the world. From big corps to small business, these creative hubs are often the birthplace of great ideas, brilliant campaigns and emerging technology. But what makes a good innovation lab? Well, accessibility and freedom are a big part of it. You can expect the best of the best to have 3D printers, state of the art computers and smart technology, arts stations and open source information. Whilst some innovation labs are for staff only, there’s a moving trend to throwing doors open for the community and local students to utilise and grow within the same space, which is pretty neat if you ask me.

Check out some of the coolest innovation lab inspiration from across the globe as we showcase the best, most beautiful examples.

IED Innovation Lab, Spain

The IED Lab provides a new type of design experience and a set of tools for students, companies, neighbours and public institutions in Madrid to come together and create their own projects of transformation. The IED Lab aims to imagine, question, research, explore, experiment, educate and prototype. There are specialised lab units inbuilt into the architecture to create different rooms for different concepts, each equipped with futuristic technology. The multidisciplinary labs include fab lab (for prototyping), media lab (for presenting ideas), XR lab (extended reality including 3D, VR, AR and machine learning), city lab (exploring urban transformation), future food lab (with partnerships with food schools and institutions), and digital design lab (for digital and tech development and transformation).

SPACE10, Sweden

SPACE10 is actually the brainchild of Swedish icon IKEA, who created the lab to enable a better, more meaningful and sustainable life for many people through home design. Research and innovative design solutions are created to challenge some of the major societal changes expected to affect people in the years to come. SPACE10 does this in collaboration with an ever-growing network of forward-thinking partners. SPACE10 offers lectures across their website to those who are interested, whilst also acting as a trial and test space for new living ideas like flat pack green walls and hubs, self-driving food banks and technology within the household. Hydroponic farming and voice command gardens are also tried and tested within SPACE10. A recent hydroponic growth experiment grew herbs and plants 3 times faster through stackable trays, a climate-controlled box and LED lights that allow continuous growth. Did I mention no soil was used, and only about 10% of water compared to traditional gardening methods was needed. Now that’s innovation.

StudioLAB, U.S.A

Walt Disney Studios presents StudioLAB, a new tech hub focused on advancing the art of storytelling with cutting-edge tools and methods. Studio creatives and production entities utilise the space to gather and explore new ways of optimising their storytelling. Disney collaborated with Accenture Interactive, Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise who came on board as Innovation Partners to help create and bring to life technology within the lab. The creative space enables filmmakers from Disney’s film studios—Disney Live Action, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm—to better collaborate with one another, explore new technologies and experience the latest projects, content, tools and devices from StudioLAB partners, as well as the broader technology industry. StudioLAB offers exclusive VR, Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality experiences, and features digital windows and 360º film walls which immerse visitors into the world of Walt Disney.

The Open Innovation Lab, Global

Microsoft created, tested and optimised the Open Innovation Lab based on their Design Thinking principles.
The Innovation Labs and Centres are pop ups within Microsoft partnered companies such as internet firms, universities, corporate agencies and developers. There are currently 115 Microsoft Innovation Labs located in countries like the U.S.A, India, Armenia and Australia, with most being open to public use. Whilst the labs are tuned to suit their environment and audience, they all provide similar content and services designed to accelerate technology advancements and improve local economies through skills, training, industry partnerships and innovation via emerging technology.  Some of the programs and activities facilitated within the labs include student to business workshops, business and technical skills development, virtual startup incubation, prototype development, product testing, developer camps, IT academy, technology competence centre and technical trainee programs. The technology you can expect to see in the Microsoft labs include virtual reality, augmented reality, open planned networking spaces, digital art, touch screens, projector capsules for learning, IT technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, all of which continue to pave the way for Microsoft’s living legacy.

Sephora Innovation Lab, U.S.A

In a reformed warehouse based in San Francisco, cosmetics heavyweight Sephora have grown their own innovation lab to test new technologies, ideas and shopfront methods without the need to infiltrate one of their flagship stores. The lab has been configured to focus mainly on developing and testing a huge range of digital experiences, designed to inform and enhance shopping across their website, mobile, and brick-and-mortar stores. It features open meeting spaces and rooms for brainstorming, as well as a full model of a Sephora store, including display windows to test and experiment with. Technology such as augmented reality has been utilised and rolled out from the innovation lab to customer facing stores, with apps and videos designed to work around the user’s face. Content like makeup tutorials or digitally trying on new lipstick colours often feature across the Sephora site and in store, with thanks to its origins at the innovation lab.

Hanoi Creative City, Vietnam

Nestled in the outskirts of Hanoi, just a few blocks away from the city’s Red River, Hanoi Creative City is a 20-storey high rise complex which has been given completely to arts and culture. If you catch an elevator up to the top level and work your way down, you’ll be surprised to find that each floor is completely different to the next, whether it be a smoke and laser installation, creative boardroom or Japanese tea house. Our very own Yakkazoo designer, Kai Faulkner, had the pleasure of working at Hanoi Creative City for two months, and described the concept as excellent. “It has a great startup culture, packed with energy and people who work extremely hard. You can tell you’re in the presence of good people trying to make good sh*t happen. And what’s better is that there’s amazing Vietnamese coffee nearby. The whole experience is just cool, for lack of a better word”.