“Technology wins over politics when it comes to speed, and that’s when you need testbeds”
Testbed Gothenburg is an initiative to support industry, public sector organizations, science parks and academia in their efforts to increase the rate of innovation. By collaboratively developing new solutions, we will become better at tackling the challenges society is facing.
“Planning or simulation aren’t always enough. Sometimes, you simply must test a concept or product under real conditions and circumstances. And, individual players seldom have all the answers and knowledge required, so collaboration becomes a critical factor for success,” says Lars Bern, Head of Testbed Gothenburg.
Testbed Gothenburg was launched about one year ago as a collaborative effort between politicians, academia and a wide range of industrial partners, all of whom were in agreement that multi-disciplinary collaboration was the best way forward for the city’s development. Testbeds provide the forum for such collaboration. They are environments for developing, testing and implementing new products, services or processes in collaboration with others.
What’s happening in 2019-2020?
“We’re currently working very hard to set up new testbeds. One example is Virtual Gothenburg. It’s a digital twin of the city where you can test different types of scenarios like architecture, traffic planning and sustainability with energy solutions and waste management,” says Lars.
“Soon, we’ll have an FED (Fossil-free Energy District) set up too. It’s a local energy market where the buildings in the area both produce and trade electricity, district heating and district cooling with each other,” says Lars.
He goes on to say that planning is underway to set up a permanent testbed for 100% fossil-free construction, which is an extension of the innovation project to establish Hoppet, a fossil-free childcare centre that the local government in the City of Gothenburg will soon be constructing.
“Right now, we’re involved in very exciting work to investigate the area around Säve airport. It’s a very large area of around 3 million square metres. We’re discussing options with the property owner, Castellum, for setting up test beds for future mobility, logistics and aircraft. We envision self-driving terminal transports, electric aircraft and an FED,” says Lars.
“We’re already a world-leader in many of these areas, with future testbeds like Seel (Swedish Electric Transport Laboratory AB) and existing ones like AstaZero and Awitar. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of testbeds for vehicles and transports in Gothenburg,” says Lars.
Testbed Gothenburg has made this possible in that it is now easier to get an overview of the investments being made in the region. It is also advantageous to have a clear strategy and direction for innovation efforts. Testbed Gothenburg helps match expertise with concepts in new ways by providing the right forum for the two to meet. It also adds an international component, generating interest for partners in other parts of the world. That has been a clear trend over the last year.
“For example, we have a Danish team testing some self-driving technology developed in France. Collaboration helps us use the knowledge and expertise generated by the testbeds in new ways. We’re able to transfer it to other applications and partners who can derive the most benefits from it,” he says.
Many organizations and regions are trying to cope with an ever-increasing pace of development. A shift is taking place from R&D (Research and Development) to E&S (Experiment and Scale) as regards innovative ways of working, methods and technologies. But in society, there is a trend towards less planning & investigation and more testing.
Is there a risk of becoming too short-sighted?
“Technology wins over politics when it comes to speed. And it really is true. The popularity of electric scooters is a perfect example. But yes, there certainly are risks associated with testing. Nevertheless, testing typically does give you more relevant feedback, provided that the tests are transparent and that you have the same expectations that you would when carrying out an investigation.
What about policies, regulations and legislation? How do we ensure that they are updated and aligned when the pace of development is so quick?
“The key here is having people with the right expertise required for modernizing and adapting the existing rules and regulations such that you remove any barriers to upscaling and commercialisation. Examples are future mobility and digitisation of the healthcare sector. Together, we’re now searching for financing to implement that and there is a strong demand from industry,” says Lars.
“We have a plan for how we would set up a policy lab that would serve as a central pool or secretariat responsible for tackling regulatory issues and policy challenges.”
That sounds great. But how would it all work in practice?
“First, requests for regulatory changes would be submitted to the secretariat. This could have to do with all types of matters and some changes could be quickly implemented, like exemptions from parking rules or the timing of traffic flows. But there are also issues that have a large impact on society, such as insurance liability for self-driving cars or electrification of the motorway network. The secretariat would determine which stakeholders to involve in a joint effort to update the relevant policies or regulations. Examples here are officials at the EU, national or local levels, along with lawyers, government authorities, industry representatives, business organization and other groups that are affected,” he says.
There are many plans for the future and one of the most important aspects that is being addressed on a daily basis is interlinking and intertwining the various testbed environments. It’s also important to make the existing environments available and identify business models that can meet the needs of SMEs.
“There are many opportunities for SMEs to collaborate in testbeds so that they can develop their concepts and solutions,” says Lars. “More information is available here >> or simply contact me if you have questions. You can also follow us on LinkedIn with #testbäddgöteborg and #testbedgothenburg,” concludes Lars Bern.