Good Practice: Innovation Labs for young professionals (Romania)

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Innovation Labs is a pre-acceleration programme for young professionals to explore the potential of bleeding-edge technologies to solve real problems.
29 July 2019 - DEVISE  project
Entrepreneurship is prone to failure when done in isolation. Innovation Labs pre-accelerator programme allows students and young entrepreneurs to practice tech entrepreneurship without facing the costs of the real world. This program started in 2016 in Timisoara (Romania).

The programme offers feedback sessions in the first phase, facilitating the creation of interdisciplinary teams. Then, the pre-acceleration programme starts with a hackathon where the admitted teams are selected. Then there are 3 months of mentoring and coaching, during which the teams work on their prototype, business model, presentation, long term vs short term objectives, guided by seasoned entrepreneurs. 

Beneficiaries: University students and young tech entrepreneurs, fitting one of 3 recommended profiles: entrepreneur, engineer, designer.

In Timisoara the Innovation Lab Programme is run by ROSENC Cluster‘s CEO and 4 other volunteers. The selected teams receive support services from public organizations such as core ERNACT member and DEVISE project partner West RDA, and Tehimpuls Association.

Resources needed

The programme in Timisoara costs around €40,000, out of which about €20,000 is covered by the NGO in Bucharest (via public grants) and the remaining amount is secured through sponsorship from local private investors. Local authorities provide non-monetary support.

Evidence of success

Results in the past years in Timisoara, West Region:
  • 2016: 8 teams, 3 companies registered and on the market with increasing turnover
  • 2017: 9 teams, 3 on the market, 1 started its international projects
  • 2018: 13 teams, 6 under development, 4 on the market
  • 2019: 17 teams
Sectors include: Agriculture, Cyber Security, Energy, FinTech, Health & Lifestyle, IoT, Mobile, Retail, Smart Cities, Smart Mobility.

Difficulties encountered

  • Level of awareness and entrepreneurial education in the region (which is improving, as the number of accepted teams over the years prove)
  • Funding local sponsors
  • Finding business angels to invest in the newly created start-ups 

Potential for learning or transfer

The programme is a good practice of partnership at local level to bring about more awareness and support the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, with a focus on digital technologies.

The main sponsors of Innovation Labs are interested in the market and technology potential of participating teams. There have been many cases in which an alumni of the programme became a partner of a sponsor (usually corporations or business facilitators), thus going from idea to market (its first client) in less than a year. In fact, in some cases, during the programme, the teams are mentored by what later becomes their first client!

Additionally business support organization such as West RDA, Tehimpuls Association are supporting the programme and provide support services to the selected teams.

The practice could be duplicated in partner regions, and easily adapted to the their entrepreneurial ecosystem to foster the development of new digital solutions tailored to regional needs.

Further information and contact: Innovation Labs

Click here to email  Eilís Mc Fadden at ERNACT for further information

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