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Let’s face it! Being an entrepreneur and building a startup it’s not for everybody. If you want to innovate, you have to be willing to overcome a few obstacles. A testbed is a complex concept that helps early-stage startups design, test and validate their solutions before investing large amounts of money. The thing is that it didn’t break the geographical barriers and get from western Europe all the way to Romania. So, what is a testbed and why do we need this for the Romanian startup ecosystem?

Testbed & innovation go hand in hand 

How can you innovate without testing an idea? With current technological capabilities, there is a big chance for you to launch an amazing product or service that matches the exact prototype you had in mind. How do you know it’s going to sell? Imagine that you could collaborate with companies, public institutions, researchers, or institutes to develop an innovative product or service. This whole ecosystem allows you to develop that product and test it on a real market. 

Innovation is closely tied to a continuous process of intensive cycles of testing, which require time and resources. On one hand, public institutions can only fund some basic research, on the other hand, private investors need proof that one solution can be widely implemented. 

You might be thinking of an incubator or startup accelerator, which is quite close to the concept of a testbed but it’s not really the same. We are talking about a large-scale testing opportunity, which makes it possible for you to gather information about what’s working, what can be scaled up, what needs improvement or even a prompt switch in the market. 

What is a testbed in essence? 

Basically, we have the dots but we miss the connection between them. This is why a network of both private and public entities is needed to spur the opportunities to innovate in any sector. A national testbed network or even a local one can boost the adoption and integration of new technologies in various fields. Therefore, testbeds aim to gather up the researchers, investors, technology providers, utilities, regulators, with one purpose: to help the ones who need a physical or virtual landscape to launch a solution in its early development stage. Government entities play a critical role in this type of network, as it can be considered the bridge between innovative companies and their potential buyers. 

The rest of Europe is getting better at this every day

We see more startups rising on the market every day because innovation is needed everywhere. However, not all countries are prepared to welcome the innovation and there are lots of improvements to consider when talking about local resources and infrastructure that can help a startup evolve. 

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According to European Commission, the most innovative countries in Europe are Sweden,

followed by Finland, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland. In Gothenburg, there are a lot of testbeds where innovators can launch their products or services to be tested either in the real or virtual world. The Finnish startup ecosystem aims to become a global figure by implementing both domestic and international testbeds. In Germany,  The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has even created a platform to connect the testbeds around the country to help SMEs develop and elevate Industry 4.0. Another competitive country that strives to achieve digital transformation is Denmark where testbeds cover a wide range of areas from the energy sector and biotech to waste management. Ultimately, Switzerland becomes the testbed for the drone industry

Looking up on the Internet, we can see this concept rising and flourishing in many more countries. Nesta, based in the U.K., helps entrepreneurs design, test and scale solutions that could solve the biggest issues our society is facing now. These are just a few examples of what can be done through a testbed and how important this entity is for the startup ecosystem, and for digital transformation. 

Let’s stay positive. Romania is on the right path 

Looking on the bright side, 2019 set a new target for the tech startup ecosystem. More sustainable businesses attract more investors in our region. This unlocks the possibility for us to build a testbed where we can see actors gathering up to build digital solutions for the current problems. 

An innovation testbed might be a new concept for us, but looking out there, we can see it’s already needed. We can’t build emerging businesses if there is no communication and mutual help between researchers, institutions and entrepreneurs. Just think of it this way: you can’t fund something that’s not been tested yet.

So, the first thing is to create a context where ideas can be designed and tested before shaping the scaling plan.