Chargé d’Affairs a.i. Abigail Rupp at Innovation Labs Demo Day

Organizers and sponsors, judges, guests, students, innovators,

It’s a great chance to be here for the final evening of Demo Day to learn more about the journey that you all have been on for the past few months.

I am going to start by mentioning something that I brought with me today that represents innovation, which is my necklace. I do not know if you can see it from up there, but it is a little circuit board. I got this as a going away present when I was the head of an IT group in the State Department. Yes, even the Government can innovate from time to time. We had a group of users of our systems, IT experts and also outside experts and we came together to answer one question, which was why not. Why do we have to do it the way we have always been doing it and what can we do to make things work better? And it was a fascinating experience and one of the highlights of my career, my 20 plus years as a diplomat. So when I thought about coming here tonight, I thought of my limited experience as an innovator and I wore a little symbol to show you that there is part of this spirit also with me.

These kinds of programs that support a creative process also support Romania as a country and Romania already has – as President Iohannis said – already has a scientific and an academic heritage that supports innovation through science, through engineering, through IT, that is known all around the world, including in the U.S.

But the challenge, I think, is making sure that innovative skill is nurtured here, in Romania, so programs like this are a great way to do exactly that. These programs support you, future and current entrepreneurs, innovators who will invest yourselves in technology and in creating jobs in Romania. And we, at the Embassy are here to support you in doing that.

There have been some great successes already from past years. There is Wyliodrin, a company developed during the first edition of Innovation Labs. They offer a development platform for Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications, and are now working with companies like Microsoft and universities like UCLA. There is also ENTy, which we saw on the screen, from 2016, which won the award for Best Product for a disruptive solution in Ear, Nose, and Throat medicine. Two months later, ENTy they won the Microsoft Imagine Cup and are now working to create a product that will reach a global market at the Rockstart incubator in Amsterdam.

What we do here has effects around the world. And what we are doing here exemplifies Romania’s competitive advantage: a tech-savvy, multilingual, and global population that is looking for a better future and a stronger country. And we are glad to be part of creating these opportunities here in Romania.

I want to thank all the companies and all the organizations that are part of this initiative. It’s great to see that the Romanian-American Foundation (RAF) continues to be a supporter of this program which continues to grow, find more sponsors, and find more ways to expand this idea of accelerating ideas and supporting the growth of innovation.

There are also as we saw a number of technical universities around the country that support these Labs. Those technical universities create that link between education and economics, between what we learn and what we do. And that is a vital part of how we can grow the innovation opportunities here in Romania.

We, the United States value Romania as a stable and reliable ally. We have just celebrated last year 20 years of the U.S-Romania Strategic Partnership. And through that partnership we are working with Romanian institutions, including the Presidency, the Government and the Parliament to find ways to move forward together on priorities of security, rule of law, and prosperity. One of the ways we are doing that is next month in Washington we are having a high-level Strategic Partnership Dialogue where we are going to work together to find ways to move forward on common goals like defense cooperation, energy, cyber security, trade, investment and cultural exchange. Many of those initiatives are also what you are working on in different directions. So, again, there is a lot to connect us.

In addition to what we do around the world, which is support bilateral trade and investment, we also support here in Romania and around the world, the growth of entrepreneurship and innovation. We work with our partners in the government, the presidency, to find other ways to advance reforms and increase transparency and reliability for small businesses, for entrepreneurs like you, for startups and for businesses. And that partnership can only move forward when we have events like this, free and open exchange of ideas and a commitment on all sides to enhance the opportunities for all of the citizens of Romania and all of the citizens of the United States.

When entrepreneurship increases, the Romanian market-based economic growth, also increases. If you have read your macroeconomics text books, this means increased trade and investment, right? There is an expression in English: “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Entrepreneurship creates new jobs, creates new businesses, and small businesses do not always stay small. There are many large American corporations the names of which you may have heard of – something called Microsoft, something called Google – that started off as one or two person operations that started with small prototypes in their garage. Small ideas have changed the world.

For our part, the Embassy has brought American entrepreneurs to Romania to contribute the expertise that they may have on the legal framework that supports entrepreneurship, the environments that promote small businesses, the transparency measures that have to be in place to have a reliable business climate, and – as Innovation Labs also supports — the whole process of taking an idea into reality and expanding that idea further than you ever imagined.

We are proud of what we have done in our part to support this entrepreneurial ecosystem. If you think about what we can bring in terms of our entrepreneurial culture, I think really the United States can point to entrepreneurship as one of our defining qualities – this idea of a society with shared opportunity, with quality education, with access to capital, with rule of law, transparency, and a high tolerance for risk-taking, because part of what you have to do to make a change is be comfortable with a level of risk.

So we are looking forward to seeing what is going to happen tonight as part of the final pitch stage. And I look forward to seeing some of these smaller ideas become big projects. So again, thank you very much for the opportunity to talk to you. It is great to see the level of energy and interest in making change, in making technology part of what we do every day and all asking ourselves that same question: why not?