IPL Speaker Series

Testbeds as innovation policy: A survey

November 28, 2019 | 2:00PM - 4:00PM
Innovation Policy Lab

This event is over

The need to test new technologies in complex real-world environments can be an important barrier to innovation. The solution often comes in the form of a particular type of innovation testbed, a bounded environment in which new technologies can be trialled and tested in real world conditions. Policy tools with these characteristics are sometimes called testbeds, demonstrators, or even sandboxes, and they have become increasingly important in innovation policy. Yet there has been little systematic analysis of this new innovation technology. This paper offers a framework for understanding real world innovation testbeds, a definition, and a typology of different types. Based on an evaluation of over 200 testbeds, it defines, conceptualises and categorises them. We identify four main types – testbed districts, testbeds environments, testbed facilities, and testbed programmes. We argue that real-world testbeds are likely to play an increasingly important role in innovation and industrial policy, but that there are important unresolved ethical and regulatory issues around their use.

Innovation Policy Lab


Dr. Neil Lee

Associate Professor of Economic Geography
Department of Geography and Environment