From VRT Sandbox to the Sandbox Hub: 15 European media organisations enable startups to grow internationally

Sandbox Hub

France TV, the Dutch NPO, the Finnish public broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Rádio e Televisão de Portugal. Those are only 5 of the 15 media organisations that joined the Sandbox Hub the past year. The Sandbox Hub initiative was launched early 2018 to support collaboration and knowledge-sharing among European broadcasters and startups. 

The Sandbox Hub was initiated along the lines of the successful VRT Sandbox and is part of the European funded “MediaRoad” project. Following the lead of VRT, 15 international media organisations are now establishing their own Sandbox approach that enable startups to scale internationally.

VRT and the “MediaRoad” project

The Sandbox Hub is part of “MediaRoad”, a European funded project that has the ambition to stimulate media innovation in Europe by strengthening collaboration and shaping future research and policy priorities. The project, led by the European Broadcasting Union, started in september 2017 and is building an ecosystem for media innovation in Europe. As one of its initiatives, the Sandbox Hub replicates the original Sandbox approach of VRT to other media organisations. Within this network of Sandboxes, startups are able to exchange knowledge, collaborate and grow internationally. The Sandbox Hub is led by VRT, which has already facilitated over 90 collaborations between startups and VRT brands. The past year, VRT Sandbox has been able to inspire many other broadcasters to innovate via entrepreneurship and join the Sandbox Hub. To these partners, VRT offered the expertise and tools to initiate their own Sandbox.

15 European media organisations, over 30 international collaborations

VRT Sandbox Sessions

Since January 2018, a total of 15 Europea media organisations have joined the Sandbox Hub and many Flemish and international startups were introduced to the network. In addition, the Sandbox Hub also organised several events with partners such as the European Broadcasting Union and Flanders Investment & Trade. During one of these events, the VRT Sandbox Sessions, the Flemish startup Zender had the opportunity to meet the public broadcaster of Lithuania, LRT, which resulted in a contract and first collaboration.

Thanks to the Sandbox Hub events, we were able to expand our network internationally as a Flemish startup. Through various projects with VRT Sandbox and Ketnet, we have been able to grow and innovate or product at VRT. Now, we have the chance to do this on an even larger scale.  

Hendrik Dacquin, Co-Founder Zender

Even more, two international startups already worked together with the VRT, among which the French startup Newsbridge and the German Cutnut.

Radio France is thrilled to be joining the Sandbox Hub. We strongly believe that sharing our experience with highly motivated and valuable partners will be key to meeting the challenges of the media revolution. … Over the past few years, France has become a powerful nation of innovators and entrepreneurs. We are looking forward to connecting our local startups with the greater European network.

Adeline Beving, Open Innovation Project Manager at Radio France

International growth via the Sandbox approach

The positive results of a Sandbox approach have already been proven. Between 2015 and 2017, partners saw their amount of employees increase by 90% during their collaboration with VRT Sandbox. In that period, they were also able to raise a total of 19,7 million euro. This was demonstrated in the economic value study (Dutch) in the end of 2018. With the Sandbox Hub, startups now also have the opportunity to scale and collaborate internationally.

The balance is very positive. For us there were three main goals in working with VRT Sandbox, getting feedback from one of the most innovative public organisations in Europe, opening a door to other public organisations and gaining visibility.

Tommy Ferraz, Founder of Voizzup

The Sandbox Hub in the future

In September 2019, the European “MediaRoad” project and its funding ends. Afterwards, VRT will continue to lead the Sandbox Hub, with the support of the EBU and the European Commission. Because of the sudden and enormous growth of the initiative, the project team aims to focus first on the qualitative follow-up of its partners.

Project leader of the Sandbox Hub, Sarah Geeroms, already gave away her ambitions:

In the short run, I would like to involve more commercial parties in the Sandbox Hub, of which at least one in Belgium. As a public broadcaster, we strongly believe in the value of open innovation. Therefore, I would love to work together in Belgium and am awaiting their positive response.

Sarah Geeroms
Project leader Sarah Geeroms

The Sandbox Hub already met its expectations. In the original project proposal, the total of expected partners was set at four. With the arrival of the German ZDF as the 15th partner in April, that number has now tripled.

If I were allowed to dream big, I would very much like to welcome a Sandbox Hub partner in every continent.

The list of all Sandbox Hub partners:

  1. VRT Sandbox (Belgium)
  2. YLE Sandbox (Finland)
  3. BBC Taster (Great Britain)
  4. Media Lab Bayern (Germany)
  5. France TV Lab (France)
  6. RTP Sandbox (Portugal)
  7. Next Media Accelerator (Germany)
  8. RTBF Innovation (Belgium)
  9. Sveriges Radio Sandbox (Sweden)
  10. ERT Media Lab (Greece)
  11. Radio France Sandbox (France)
  12. ZDF Sandbox (Germany)
  13. Tagesschau Sandbox (Germany)
  14. Media City Bergen, The Mediacube (Norway)
  15. NPO Sandbox (The Netherlands)
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