About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The primary purpose of any testbed, regardless of whether it is in a laboratory or in the real world, is to test innovative products, technologies, services or processes. However, they are being used around the world for a variety of reasons – to attract investment, gain a competitive advantage or to make public services more efficient.

These six use cases explore the different ways testbeds are being used in real-world conditions today, to help you learn from others how to design, set up and run a testbed.

Each use case looks at:

  • Why the testbed was set up
  • How the testbed was designed
  • Who is involved
  • How it is funded

Although we have included a case study to demonstrate each use case, in reality, many real-world testbeds are set up with multiple aims. One of the advantages of using a testbed is that is can be a useful way of coordinating stakeholders' objectives when testing out how an innovation works in reality.

For example, a business might use a testbed to test the design of a product more fully. At the same time, the local authority might want to find out how the product could be used to provide better public services or create supply chains for local businesses, and an innovation agency may want to explore whether the product has the potential for capturing a global competitive advantage.

For more examples of real-world testbeds being used across the globe, see this interactive map.

These use cases are part of research conducted by Arup for Nesta and can be explored in more detail in our report, Testing Innovation in the Real World: Real-world testbeds.