SmartVille project partners visited LAB

LAB University of Applied Sciences started a new project Developing Sustainable and Entrepreneurial Villages through Educational Living Labs in Namibia and Zambia (SmartVille) with a kick-off meeting on January 2024 (LAB 2024). This ambitious two-year project is funded by the European Commission Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education.

As a project coordinator, our LAB project team (project manager Terhi Tuominen together with Senior Lecturers Mia Ekman and Ville Lehto) hosted our consortium partners from LUT, University of Namibia, NUST Namibia, University of Lusaka (Zambia), University of Dortmund and University of Turku. Mulungushi University team members (Zambia) participated partly online via Zoom during the week.

[Alt text: a group of people standing side by side at hall.]
Image 1. SmartVille project team at LAB University of Applied Sciences, Lappeenranta, in March 2024. (Image: Mia Ekman)

During the visit in Lappeenranta the partner universities representatives were introduced to the entrepreneurship ecosystem of LAB and LUT. Visits were coordinated to the Jamie Hyneman Center, Business Mill and LUTES. Partners got familiar with the LAB Coach -program (train the trainer) as well as the Green Campus Innovations and 4SUS sustainability tool for start-up companies. A visit to a local company Afstor also took place. Afstor has already been providing solar cookers to Zambian rural villages enabling community members to have access to electrification and digitalization (Tomas Fillol & Pinomaa, 2023).

Theory put into practice

The team learning method was introduced to partner university lectures and researchers by LAB Senior Lecturer Ville Lehto. Partner university lectures and researchers actively participated LAB student learning session where team learning methods were applied through dialogue.

[Alt text: learning moment, one person is telling and ten persons are listening to him in a big conference lobby.]
Image 2. Team being introduced to team learning method. (Image: Mia Ekman)

One of the ambitious goals for SmartVille project is to introduce innovative teaching and learning methods to increase practical entrepreneurial skills by offering both formal and informal education in entrepreneurship both in the partner African Higher Education Institutions, as well as in the rural villages of Namibia and Zambia.

The objective of the SmartVille project is to implement a team learning approach, fostering active involvement of both students and lecturers in African partner universities. Team learning as a method encourages collaborative learning as opposed to the conventional authoritarian method, empowering students to collaborate in teams and benefit from shared knowledge. University of Dortmund representatives enabled the LAB students together with partner universities lecturers and researchers to participate in Entrepreneurial mindset training to enhance better problem-solving skills.

Work in the project will continue with the preparation of the current situational analysis of the target groups in Namibia and Zambia. Partners will visit Zambia in August 2024.


Mia Ekman works as a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Business in LAB University of Applied Sciences. Currently works also in the Developing Sustainable and Entrepreneurial Villages through Educational Living Labs in Namibia and Zambia (SmartVille) project.


LAB. 2024. Developing Sustainable and Entrepreneurial Villages Through Educational Living Labs in Namibia and Zambia. Project websites. LAB University of Applied Sciences. Cited 19 Feb 2024. Available at

Tomas Fillol, L. & Pinomaa, A. 2023. Empowering Zambian communities with solar cookers. LAB Pro. Cited 11 Dec 2023. Available at