strategic priority
Technology & Innovation
December 2014 - February 2020
entered mentorship
Hackathon 2016
Bucharest Hackathon 2016

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.


Expanding Innovation Labs at national level is a great opportunity for us, and we are excited to take the program to a next level of scale and impact. With support from the Romanian-American Foundation we managed to establish and consolidate partnerships in Cluj, Sibiu and Timișoara, maintaining Innovation Labs’ anchoring in the Universities and student communities. We aim to bridge academic learning with entrepreneurship and innovation through mentorship and access to partners’ bleeding-edge technologies, supporting tech founders and enabling young people to pursue self-driven, hands-on, people-centric projects. We are happy to work with amazing people in Universities and NGOs and to learn from their experiences in diverse entrepreneurship and maker culture projects, thus enriching Innovation Labs and making it more flexible and attuned to local challenges.

Răzvan Rughiniș
President, Tech Lounge

Program expansion helped us rediscover that students and young people have an amazing potential to identify problems in our society and propose creative, transformative solutions. The path from ideas to prototypes and products is by no means simple, and Innovation Labs attempts to smooth its rough edges and encourage young teams to stay on track and make their ideas real. Young people are attuned both to local problems and global issues and resources, searching for ways to bring the power of global technologies and knowledge in the service of diverse communities in Romania. The program expansion meant a higher diversity and a denser network of participants, and we are thrilled to learn from this intense exchange.

Daniel Rosner

By trying to develop a solution to support informed choices for clients, we realized how important it was for us to have access to multiple perspectives from mentors in various fields – technical, business, communication or commerce. The challenge resides in understanding the messages we receive from various sources and incorporating received feedback in our products.

Virtual Assistant Team
Innovation Labs Bucharest 2016
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