STARTUP AUTOBAHN: into the seventh round with “THE NEXT GREEN THING”
The “Stuttgarter Wagenhallen” will once again be the venue of the EXPO DAY for STARTUP AUTOBAHN. After close to 100 days of tinkering and testing, business partners and startups will be presenting the project results from the sixth programme round, with specialist areas including “The future of mobility” and “Innovative production”. Along with nine discussion panels and numerous product presentations, participants can expect fascinating keynote speeches from, for example, Jasmin Eichler, Head of Future Technologies Research at Daimler AG, Mike Massimino, former NASA astronaut and a familiar figure from the US TV series “The Big Bang Theory”, plus Cem Özdemir, Member of the German Bundestag and of the political party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens).
“STARTUP AUTOBAHN is bursting with ideas, accelerating innovation, presenting astonishing technologies, bundling expertise, creating new markets and allowing all participating companies to meet incredible talent”, says Dr Philipp Gneiting, Head of STARTUP AUTOBAHN at Daimler AG. “The innovation platform is a true success story. We are convinced that the best approach is to be open to new ideas, to network and cooperate with each other.”
EXPO DAY for STARTUP AUTOBAHN, meanwhile, represents what you might call a “handing over of the baton”: on the one hand the project teams from the previous phase present the results from their three months of shared project work with startups while, on the other hand, the new scouting and project phase for the next round begins. There will therefore be plenty to see on 16 July at the “Wagenhallen” in Stuttgart: 39 startups will be joining 25 business partners, among them Daimler AG, to present the results from the 69 projects in the sixth programme round. Daimler cooperated here with 20 startups in all, in the fields of “The future of mobility”, “Smart production” and “Enterprise 2.0”.
Successfully concluded: the results from phase six
Among the results presented by the company will be those from a project with Viscopic, a startup that has been working with colleagues from Daimler to develop key technical components for a so-called Augmented Remote Support (ARS) system for use in workshops. The system gives staff access to specialist expertise in the event that they identify problems during the vehicle diagnostics and repair process, so allowing them to reach a diagnosis sooner and identify a solution more easily. In essence, this is achieved through intelligent networking with appropriate specialists and the use of digital tools such as an Augmented Reality headset. The result is simple and visually intuitive communication, which can help to counteract two of the current challenges facing workshops: the shortage of labour, along with the rising number of complex products needing maintenance and repair.
Another outcome of the collaboration between Daimler and startups during phase six: a Mobility Blockchain Platform (MBP) for mobility services, developed by the Blockchain Factory of Daimler Financial Services (DFS) together with four industry-leading startups. This is now set to be implemented. The MBP is a decentralised software platform that makes it possible to offer and manage mobility as a service with end-to-end encryption. Its scope of application ranges from the “customer journey” on the one hand through to fully digitalised contract processing, including the financial posting of the transactions in real time.
The use case described in the example is thus a “1-click” mobility service with fully automated customer verification and transaction processing. In this case, digital verification of individuals (“Know Your Client”/KYC) is made possible by the startup company Helix. A further startup, Riddle&Code, uses a “Hardware Wallet”, in essence a digital wallet for cryptocurrency, to give the vehicle a network identity that enables it to handle transactions automatically.
Looking forward to “Round 7”: right on course for sustainability
“Ambition 2039”, as the formal expression of the strategy of Mercedes-Benz Cars with respect to climate protection, is the succinct rendering of some aspirational objectives: over the course of the next 20 years, it is planned that the new vehicle fleet of Mercedes-Benz Cars should become CO2-neutral, whereby the further aim is that more than 50 percent of passenger cars sold should be plug-in hybrids or all-electric models by as early as 2030.
Mercedes-Benz already offers its customers a range of attractive products along with access to convenient and user-friendly services. The target is that, by 2022, production in the company’s European plants should be CO₂-neutral, with energy from renewable sources playing a major role in this respect. Efficient use of resources, for example, is also a key issue for our products. Not least in our collaboration with suppliers, partners and startups, sustainability is going to become more and more important, going forward.
Sustainability is now, more than ever before, also a key issue for STARTUP AUTOBAHN, as we move into the seventh round. As a “gateway to the world” the programme forms a bridge to a whole slew of startups, who will be able to work on some innovative ideas with Daimler as it progresses towards delivering emission-free mobility. In addition to the conservation of resources, liveable cities and new worlds of work, the focus for all areas in round seven of the programme will therefore be on the issues of climate protection and the reduction of CO2.
“Sustainability is set to be one of the pillars of our STARTUP AUTOBAHN programme”, says Jasmin Eichler, Head of Group Research & Innovations at Daimler AG. “The inspiration, boldness and creativity of startups provide important stimulus and can support us in achieving our sustainability objectives. Unconventional ideas will encourage us to follow new paths. There is no doubt about it: STARTUP AUTOBAHN, the largest innovation platform for mobility in Europe, represents an excellent way to explore new technologies and business models and to encourage collaboration between startups and global companies such as Daimler.”
THE NEXT GREEN THING – sustainable inspiration courtesy of STARTUP AUTOBAHN
The ongoing scouting phase for the seventh and thus next round of STARTUP AUTOBAHN has seen Daimler undertake a preliminary examination of ideas from 500 startups worldwide in the areas of climate protection and air quality, conservation of resources and liveable cities. Around 30 of these have undergone detailed examination by numerous experts and actual further collaboration agreed with a selected few. The range of subject matter is varied, providing an indication of the wealth of ideas abounding in the startup scene – for example in the fields of resource efficiency and climate protection.
One startup, for instance, extracts CO₂ from the air and uses it to produce polymers that can then be used as either soft or hard foam materials in car seats. Another startup produces diesel from renewable raw materials, which Daimler could use to fill its own vehicle fleets in its plants around the world.
Further product ideas include: a leather substitute based on plant fibres and used in vehicle interiors; a material made out of flax and wood that replaces conventional plastic and can be used to create complete vehicle instrument panels; a so-called “biomix” of plant material and mushrooms that can be poured into moulds to form foam elements – a substitute for polystyrene, as it were – with the potential for a wide range of uses in vehicle manufacturing. A further startup is looking into which parts of a car could be removed and potentially have use as furniture, before the car is scrapped.
STARTUP AUTOBAHN – a success story
Started in Stuttgart, now a worldwide success: the story of STARTUP AUTOBAHN can be traced back to a 2016 initiative by Daimler AG to find an innovative way of connecting the world of startups and the world of large, established corporations in industrial sectors such as the motor industry. Daimler founded the innovation platform together with the startup accelerator Plug and Play, the University of Stuttgart and the research hothouse ARENA2036. STARTUP AUTOBAHN runs two three-month programmes annually, each of which concludes with an EXPO DAY.
The first location was Stuttgart, with the aim of developing this highly industrialised region in an even more sustainable way to create a concentrated centre for innovation and inventive spirit that would be a startup hotspot. The STARTUP AUTOBAHN in Stuttgart has now grown to encompass more than 20 partners in a very disparate range of industries, for example in the chemical, electronics and logistics sectors. During its very first year, the STARTUP AUTOBAHN in this location became the largest European innovation platform for mobility startups.
However, startups are founded all over the world, usually at hotspots with sometimes very specialised local strengths and areas of focus. It is for this reason that Daimler has since started further programmes in Singapore (2016), Beijing (2017) and Bangalore (2018), in each case involving local Daimler facilities. Additional startup challenges took place at the Daimler plants in East London (South Africa) and Tuscaloosa (USA) in 2018, focusing on digitalisation in production and logistics.
Since the STARTUP AUTOBAHN innovation platform was established, Daimler has scouted well over 5000 startups via the platform. In this time, more than 100 startups have carried out 150 pilot projects in various areas, such as IT and artificial intelligence, production or smart materials. Thousands of Daimler employees from a wide range of specialist departments have met the young entrepreneurs and worked with them to launch pilot projects. In return they not only obtained insights into innovative business models and technologies, but also experienced the often refreshing working approach of the startup scene.