The NB-LAB project addresses the need of the partner universities in Peru and Ecuador for more applied research and research oriented programs, relevant to the current societal and environmental challenges in the region. With this respect, the project contributed to the modernisation and internationalisation of higher education structures of the partner universities, by setting up capacities for user-driven applied research and innovation that contributed to sustainable rural community development under preservation and responsible use of the natural resources in the Amazonian Region. For this purpose, the NB-LAB project partners established nature–based living labs at the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Close connection and collaboration with local communities and the indigenous populations opened new avenues for social and economic development in the region.

The sustainable operation of the labs was ensured by their direct integration in both educational and research processes in the partner universities. Community service learning was selected as the most suitable educational approach for the transfer of the research results in the society. It is the most appropriate methodology as it is a powerful experiential tool to improve curricular learning, contribute to solving real societal and environmental problems and develop competencies of engaged citizenship.

The NB–Labs were piloted by the means of an international participatory exchange programme for international students and researchers from multiple disciplines. Two rounds of implementation will test the facilities in the NB–Lab “research village” in Iquitos and the scattered research stations in the rainforest around Tena, that were connected through coordinated research expeditions. By organising staff training and exchanges the project developed the skills and professional performance of the academic to secure the sustainability of the innovation structures.

In August 2022, the NB-LAB in Ecuador was piloted at IKIAM in Tena. The lab in Tena invited 60 students, (including 15 internationals) from different disciplines and 5 international tutors came together in the Amazon Rainforest in the Tena region. A quarter of the participating students were IKIAM students who originated from local communities. The local students provided a good access point for community service learning proving the concept of being possible and necessary. Five research and development teams of students, academic mentors, business professionals, and direct users were cooperating for six weeks in the development and testing of new products and solutions tailored to the needs of communities in the area of sustainable living in the Amazonia region. The first week took place in Quito and served as an intercultural exchange for the international and interdisciplinary teams. All five research teams provided cross-cutting content as they are developed for students from different studies such as energy, electrical, mechanical, business, design or social sciences. Within the camp students increased their employability, social and cultural skills, including teamwork, problem solving, critical and reflective thinking, creative thinking, and evaluation. The pilot camp was designed in the sense of a global work environment, fostered the presentation skills, and formulating ethical conduct in a global learning / working environment as well as diversity (multiculturalism, special needs, diversity by location-based methods, and gender equality). Those skills and competencies acquired in close exchange between locals and internationals are characterised by being relevant to all students and academic staff as well as citizens in Europe and Latin America. 

his book describes the paths and outcomes of the research efforts conducted during the first exchange program in Tena, Ecuador and also highlights the joint effort of a multinational team during the undergraduate research program “Experimental Student Design Build Project NB LAB”, conducted at Iquitos, Peru. 

Scientific Committee. Nature–based living lab project