COVID-19 has demonstrated how vulnerable traditional models for retail and city spaces can be. Using a variety of new and emerging technologies, the Micro-Labs pilot re-imagines these spaces and how we can make them more desirable, feasible and viable for those returning to our city.

At this shared and flexible venue, you can collaborate, meet people, co-work, borrow and browse the library collection, host or join an event, shop and more. Technology enables activities here and the space will adapt over time according to users’ needs and feedback.

Through collaborative design and implementation, this pilot started in May at 227-229 Bourke Street, Melbourne. This pilot will continue for at least six months, to enable us to fully test the concept and collect community feedback.

Hit ‘Follow’ on this page to keep up-to-date on events and activations. Micro-Labs was one of three winning projects selected as a pilot through the Reimagining the City challenge.

UPDATE: The Micro-Labs pilot has ended and not taking bookings for 2024.

The pilot was a success and enabled us to better understand how city tenancies can drive value. Over the last 18 months, we’ve had more than 23,000 visits, 500 events, and 80 organisations use this flexible and digitally-enabled space.

We will continue to apply the data and insights collected at Micro-Labs to scale up the value of this ‘smart' community space into the future for our community and local economy.

Any future changes to the tenancy will be announced here and on our Instagram channel.


While the layout and amenities of the space will adapt over time in response to feedback, the following key features will remain consistent:

  • free and fast wi-fi
  • accessible toilets and facilities
  • outdoor courtyard
  • tea and coffee station and a fridge for short-term storage of food
  • projector
  • interactive whiteboard
  • digital screens
  • microphone with bluetooth speaker
  • video conferencing equipment
  • comfortable furniture including a variety of tables and chairs
  • flexible layout – you can tailor the space to suit your needs with movable furniture
  • ability to book the whole space or share it with others
  • display opportunities (shelves, community noticeboard etc.)
  • lockers – so you can keep your items secure.


When you visit Micro-Labs, our friendly staff will help you:

  • learn more about the space
  • borrow from the library collection
  • use our technology
  • submit a request to book the space
  • or connect with us digitally to stay in the loop about upcoming events and opportunities.

Pop-up library

There’s a pop-up library within Micro-Labs, joining a network of pop-up libraries around the city. Feel free to browse the collection, borrow items (books and technology!), learn about other library resources, chat to our librarians or sign up to be a member or simply hang around and read.

Learn more about City of Melbourne Libraries.

Code of conduct and values

Our first round of community partners (determined through an expression of interest in October 2021), helped us put together a set of values, code of conduct and rules to underpin how we can work together in this space.

Everyone who visits and uses Micro-Labs should observe these values. These values will evolve over time with community input.

Our values:

  1. Inclusion and accessibility: Everyone is welcome, Micro-Labs is an inclusive and accessible space.
  2. Safety: Everyone should feel safe to be themselves.
  3. Collaboration: Together we are better - we will collaborate and problem-solve together.
  4. Diversity and uniqueness: We stay curious. We share, listen and learn from each other and respect our unique experience.
  5. Digital enablement: Digital tools should be available to everyone, and everyone should be able to access support to use them.
  6. Flexibility: This space belongs to the community - together we're shaping it, we believe in testing and adapting to drive value.

Our code of conduct demonstrates our shared beliefs for Micro-Labs:

  • We say 'hi'.
  • We are a community, and we want to connect with others.
  • We all contribute to a safe and respectful place.
  • We are open to change, just like the space. We are flexible with one another, and this is supported by honesty and transparency.
  • We work to ensure everyone gets a chance to use the space.
  • We are considerate of others and their needs of the space.

Our rules help us to know what is ok to do in the space:

  1. We are courteous and friendly.
  2. We stay curious about each other and respect our experiences and differences.
  3. We all contribute to a safe and respectful space.
  4. Our noise levels consider other people - however this is not a quiet library space!
  5. We treat this space like our homes (leave it as you found it, or better! This includes washing your own dishes, wiping down surfaces you’ve occupied).
  6. You can book the whole space for a community event.
  7. Fair use policy applies.
  8. The space is available to anyone.
  9. We are considerate of others and their needs for the space.
  10. No staying overnight or sleeping in the space.
  11. Wipe down your area when you leave with sanitiser provided.
  12. We follow current health orders on physical distancing and mask-wearing.
  13. We can eat cold food inside.
  14. We can drink coffee and other drinks throughout.
  15. Alcohol is allowed at private events.
  16. Preference is for eating to be done outside.

What we are trying to understand

Through design-thinking and applied technologies, the objective of this pilot is to understand if retail tenancies can be redefined as dynamic, intelligent and supportive spaces for local business and communities to thrive. We aim to explore:

  • How retail spaces can potentially support a new type of city occupation for small businesses.
  • What tools and amenities could help community and small businesses in the city connect and continue (for instance access to high-speed internet and spaces to meet others with video-conferencing equipment).
  • If physical city spaces could evolve with its inhabitants through data insights for a more sustainable type of retail space.

The design process

To develop a user-centred design and program, we’ve worked with local community groups, small businesses, social enterprises and more to discuss everything from furniture and finishes to technology, amenity and a code of conduct. We learned in addition to cleanliness and comfort, good acoustics in a space are vital. The space should also have a ‘buzzing’ feel and personality of its users.

We partnered with Moth Design to develop flexible designs that embody the values and functional requirements expressed during the community consultation. These were implemented and the space is now open for use.


AECOM and City of Melbourne are partnering to bring the Micro-Labs pilot to life.

There are 20 primary partners selected during an EOI process who are engaged in the Micro-Labs program. Learn about them at the links below. We’ll be sharing the Micro-Labs schedule soon so you can discover the variety of ways these partners are spending time at Micro-Labs.

Akana Handcrafts, Australian Wine and Food, Beit e’Shai, Champions of Change, City Precinct, Common Arts Victoria, Consultxperts, Curate Space, Dalí et Aurore, Experios Entertainment, Hearns Hobbies, Just Gold, Melbourne Fashion Hub, OMM label, ReadyTeacher, Share Some Journey, Strategic Artistry, The Powder Room, U3a (University of the 3rd Age), Umeco, We Link Education

Measuring impact

Sensors, surveys and ongoing conversations will enable City of Melbourne to understand how people use the space at different times. This means we can change the space and test other solutions to support users better.

We’ll be sharing data and insights here and on Instagram during the pilot. Follow us on Instagram at @microlabs_melbourne to keep in the loop.

To learn more about some of the emerging technology at Micro-Labs, see ‘More on the Technology’ below. You can also stop by during opening hours to chat to us or contact us at

The data

This is a snapshot of the data we’re collecting at Micro-Labs. This data helps us identify behavioural patterns in how people use the space and equipment. Using this data we can understand how many people have visited the pilot, which days are the busiest, the average time they spend, how frequently our digital walls are moved and more.

This dashboard is updated four times a day to represent data in realtime. Check out how the space is being used.

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Emerging Technology Testbed

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  • Timeline item 1 - complete

    Selection as one of three winners for the Reimagining the City challenge

    May 2021

  • Timeline item 2 - complete

    Pilot kick-off

    June 2021

  • Timeline item 3 - complete

    Site selected as a shopfront at 227-229 Bourke Street in the city

    August 2021

  • Timeline item 4 - complete

    Consultation with community groups, small businesses and small business support services

  • Timeline item 5 - complete

    Applications open

    5 November to 29 November 2021

  • Timeline item 6 - complete

    Floorplan design development with Moth Design

  • Timeline item 7 - complete

    Micro-Labs program with our 20 partners development

  • Timeline item 8 - complete

    Micro-Labs opening

    25 May 2022

  • Timeline item 9 - complete

    Data dashboard published

    October 2022

  • Timeline item 10 - complete

    Extension announced for Micro-Labs to stay open until Feb 28 2023

    5 December 2022

  • Timeline item 11 - complete

    Transition to a bookable space only

    1 March 2023

  • Timeline item 12 - complete

    Review of data collected on site

    June to November 2023

  • Timeline item 13 - complete

    Bookings close

    12 December 2023

More on the technology

We are collecting data using the following:

  • occupancy sensors to understand user behaviour - Skyfii mobile phone counting pedestrian sensor and Xovis 3D sensor
  • sensors to measure use of moving walls with tvs - Yabby Edge
  • acoustic sensor to understand noise levels and trends - Elsys ERS Sound sensor
  • air quality sensor - Elsys ERS VOC sensor
  • interactive whiteboards and displays
  • bluetooth/wifi Pedestrian sensor, leveraging the City of Melbourne’s network of existing pedestrian sensors
  • high speed free connectivity
  • micro-climate sensors
  • acoustic sensors
  • audio Visual system that supports video conferencing and workshops
  • printer
  • All data is de-identified
  • Number of people at Micro-Labs
  • Most popular times
  • Patterns of usage
  • Average time spent here
  • New and returning visitors
  • Most popular furniture and other equipment
  • Micro-climate, including temperature, air quality and humidity
  • Noise levels

This data is collected to:

  • Inform how we change and test different layouts.
  • Determine if the space or particular layouts could be successfully replicated.
  • Understand occupancy in shared spaces with diverse user groups.
  • Data from the sensors will be sent via secure means and stored safely, with more details to be shared soon.
  • A public dashboard at Micro-Labs will allow all occupants to see the data that is being collected and develop understanding about how the sensors work.
  • The information is analysed to help inform City of Melbourne about the benefit and impacts of spaces like this in future.

The City of Melbourne and AECOM as contracted service provider.

This data is stored permanently for any possible future analysis.

Emerging Technology Testbed