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LABe – Digital Gastronomy Lab: the space for culinary technological innovation has opened its doors in San Sebastián

08 July 2019

Digital Gastronomy Lab opened its doors this morning at Tabakalera in San Sebastián. This living lab for open innovation, managed by the Basque Culinary Centre, brings together technology and people to drive the digital future of gastronomy. It's a space
where the future's gastronomy can be re-thought and co-created with a digital flair.


The inauguration, which included a tour around the key facilities, took place with the presence of Arantxa Tapia, Counsellor from the Basque Government's Department of Economic Development and Infrastructure, Markel Olano, General Representative of Gipuzkoa, Eneko Goia, Mayor of San Sebastián, Joxe Mari Aizega, General Director of the Basque Culinary Centre, and the General Director of Tabakalera, Edurne Ormazabal.

“LABe is part of the Basque Country's Plan for Gastronomy and Cuisine which undertakes to diversify and innovate in the search for new products and services”, explained Arantxa Tapia. “Digitalisation is one of our main challenges as a country, and in accordance with the Basque Industry 4.0 Strategy, we aim to put forward a practical space which can represent an opportunity for the sector's SMEs to be able to verify and test their R&D, providing them with a place where they can come up with new products and open up new doors to said products’ future sale. In short, we provide the food value chain with an industrial infrastructure so that no sector and no company is left behind, and to avoid economic development at two different speeds”.

Gipuzkoa is an area that is well known for its culinary tradition, and General Representative Markel Olano noted that “LABe will clearly contribute to Gipuzkoa’s keeping its leadership status at an international level in the gastronomy sector due to a boost in competitiveness and the inclusion of new technologies”. Olano reminded all in attendance that, after 2deo, LABe is the second cutting-edge centre to open its doors under the Etorkizuna Eraikiz Programme. He likewise added that “LABe is a space for co-creation, active experimentation, and entrepreneurship; a laboratory for innovation in digital cuisine that is open to the public and will help to bring about new economic activity”. In addition, the regional representative highlighted that LABe is a reality thanks to the cooperation of the territory's gastronomy sector, a sector that is extremely “relevant, traditional, and valuable to Gipuzkoa”.

Along the same lines, Eneko Goia stated, “San Sebastián has been –and is– a world leader in terms of cooking. If there is anything that our city excels at internationally, that thing is our positioning as a culinary destination. In terms of gastronomy, we play in the Champions League. This privileged position must not lead us to self-complacency or to thinking that we'll always be on top. The world is always advancing, and we have a lot of competition. Thus, it is essential for us to make decisions that strengthen our leadership in this sector”. Goia continued, “The future-facing view of a specific group of chefs who were innovative with our traditional cuisine is what has put us on the map. The daily work of hundreds of restaurants and bars that offer quality food is what keeps us at the top. The
creation of the Basque Culinary Centre was a decision meant to help strengthen and complete our status as gastronomic leaders. And, more specifically, the creation of this Digital Gastronomy Lab helps to take us in that direction”.


In terms of the challenges faced by the sector and the role that LABe will play, Joxe Mari Aizega, Director of the Basque Culinary Centre, noted that, “Gastronomy's digitalisation is already a reality. Over the last decade, several technological innovations have radically transformed different stages and processes in the HORECA sector. New technologies are readily available to customers and those who manage lodging and dining establishments. In line with the entrepreneurial activity of the Basque Culinary Centre, LABe aims to delve deeper into the future of gastronomy with a digital flair thanks to its international, multi-disciplinary approach. It's a space that will turn us into leaders in gastronomy's digital transformation”.


The Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture aims, amongst other things, to inspire and attract cultural and creative initiatives. To this end, Edurne Ormazabal noted that the role of Tabakalera as a “place that builds bridges between creators and the industry and that encourages the professionalisation and development of the cultural sector to give rise to public and private initiatives in our country” is already a reality thanks to LABe's arrival. “The Digital Gastronomy Innovation Lab will accelerate Tabakalera's development, as it is an experimentation lab that is at the service of both the sector and society as a whole”.

LABe - Digital Gastronomy Lab represents the development and innovation branch of an
experimental space for undertaking technological projects and finding technological solutions that is at the service of all those who are part of the gastronomy value chain. It is a dynamic laboratory in which one can easily co-create, experiment, and test. It is also an incubator for new projects and R&D with companies from the culinary sector.

This open innovation lab designed by Montegui Construcciones, Foraster Arquitectos, Boslan, and DOT is made up of two floors and spans 1,400 square metres which are home to –amongst other things– a co-working space that will bring together start-ups and larger companies, prototyping kitchens for new gastronomic developments, products, services, and experiences, and a small auditorium and co-creation space.

It also has a gastronomic area managed by graduates and researchers from the Basque Culinary Centre. Said area will be open to the public beginning on July 22. The restauranteering spaces are designed for start-ups to be able to test technological solutions in a real environment. There will be a 360º experimental space where immersive gastronomic experiences will be offered to the public.

The methodology for work at LABe - Digital Gastronomy Lab has already been recognised by the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL), an international federation that includes the best European Living Labs. LABe has a committee made up of eight leading experts in the sector on the international scene, and these individuals will support the different start-ups and entrepreneurs. Amongst them, noteworthy are Brita Rosenheim, from Better Food Ventures, Amit Zoran, a digital gastronomy researcher from the University of Jerusalem, and Beatriz Romanos of TechFoodMag.

Likewise, strategic cooperation agreements are being entered into with different companies to bring about different calls and tenders open to start-ups. Additionally, the design of activities geared towards involving the public has also been tackled with initiatives such as Mindtegi and the San Sebastián Gastronomy Start-up Weekend, which was just held a couple of weeks ago.

LABe – Digital Gastronomy Lab is a space where, through digitalisation and technology, the generation of opportunities and challenges is sought for those who belong to the gastronomic sector, all the while placing people at the centre of the process.

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