Innovation Labs is a University based pre-accelerator program designed to expose students interested in technology and entrepreneurship to the rigors of developing their ideas for products and services. The program is currently hosted in five university centers nationally including Bucharest, Cluj, Iași, Sibiu, and Timișoara and serves student teams from smaller universities from around the country.
The Romanian technology sector is developing at a much higher rate than any other in this country’s economy leading to a continuous labor deficit and an accelerated scaling of salary increases. At the opposite end, academic education can’t keep up with the continuously changing needs in the technology and innovation sector. The competence gap is deepening every day while technical universities provide very few courses and experiences to prepare their students for the real economy and practical challenges like product development or building a business. In its turn, this approach pushes students away from the schools and the schools from the needs of the market.
As students choose well-paid IT jobs in outsourcing, jobs in many other segments of the economy that require technology and innovation competences remain vacant.
“Innovation Labs” is a pre-acceleration program, developed by Asociația TechLounge, which brings together technical academia and technology entrepreneurs with a view to increasing the number of students who are interested in entrepreneurship.
At first, RAF supported the development of “Innovation Labs” at the Bucharest Polytechnic School. Now, the program includes the university centers of Bucharest, Cluj, Iași, Sibiu and Timișoara. Students selected for each annual evet of “Innovation Labs” have an opportunity to develop and test their own technology ideas, are mentored by local IT&C entrepreneurs and are assisted by the academics involved in the program.
The program pursues three strategic objectives:
- To build local leadership centers – made up of academics, school managers, local businesses and students – able to organize and run future annual evets of “Innovation Labs”.
- To replicate a format that contains dedicated events for local entrepreneurs, a competition for students wherefrom promising teams and ideas are selected and an award ceremony; these would happen in each university center.
- To document the program so that it can be replicated in other university centers in Romania in the future.