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Seventh round: STARTUP AUTOBAHN and EXPO DAY dedicated to sustainability and innovative vehicle technologies

The Wagenhallen in Stuttgart will open their doors for the STARTUP AUTOBAHN for the seventh time. Europe’s largest innovation platform was formed by Daimler AG in 2016, and has attracted 28 national and international companies as partners since then. On this EXPO DAY, the Daimler Group and the other companies present their jointly developed project results. For Daimler AG the current projects are heavily dedicated to "Ambition 2039".

Stuttgart – WEBWIRE

According to this, Daimler AG as one of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers, already plans to offer a CO2-neutral new vehicle fleet for the various sales markets in the coming 20 years. According to the strategic concept, half of this car fleet is to operate on the roads of the world as plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars. CO2 neutrality is set to be achieved in the European plants in 2022. At the EXPO DAY Daimler will show how cooperation with startups can help the Group to come closer to its strategic corporate goals. 

“Our road to sustainability is paved with innovation. I am proud to be shaping this road in a globally constituted team of creative, passionate innovators and technology experts,” says Markus Schäfer, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, responsible for Group research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development, procurement and supplier quality. “Technology is the key to success. It can and will help us to shape a better, more sustainable future. Cooperation with startups all over the world is an important component in this,” says Markus Schäfer. 

Each EXPO DAY by the innovation driver STARTUP AUTOBAHN is the grand finale of a selection process lasting six months. In cooperation with the American accelerator “Plug and Play”, Daimler AG conducted a worldwide search for highly promising startups in recent months. Following a global screening operation, more than 1000 technology companies were placed on a shortlist. 

In so-called “deep dives”, the experts from various specialist departments within the Daimler Group were able to speak directly to the creative minds in the startups and examine their ideas. “After an almost three-month phase of examination of the ideas, and analysis of their feasibility and cost-effectiveness, the number on the shortlist was reduced to just under 50 companies. In a personal presentation round akin to ”speed dating“, these were invited to present their ideas to a circle of experts in Stuttgart,” says Jasmin Eichler, Director of Future Technology at Mercedes-Benz.

The final selection consisted of around 30 startups with the best prospects for success. These are now presenting themselves at EXPO DAY. Beforehand they were required to demonstrate the suitability of their idea for a major company during a 100-day pilot phase. They come from countries such as Germany, Israel, Bulgaria, Singapore, Great Britain, and the USA, and are some of the up-and-coming technology companies which will now work together with Daimler AG or one of the other 28 companies in the STARTUP AUTOBAHN cooperation. 

In recent years, Daimler AG alone has cooperated in pilot projects with more than 150 startups, implementing ideas that have now become standard in many Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The best-known innovation by the STARTUP AUTOBAHN platform resulted from cooperation with the technology newcomer What3Words. 

This intelligent, jointly developed navigation system divides the world into just under 57 billion squares measuring three by three metres. A voice input consisting of three words enables the system to find even the remotest place on earth for the driver. What3Words entered series production in the A-Class in spring 2018. 

STARTUP AUTOBAHN: discovering the “sixth sense” 

“The seventh round of the STARTUP AUTOBAHN is a treasure trove of innovations full of ideas for sustainability and innovative vehicle technologies,” Jasmin Eichler comments on the 30 participants in the EXPO DAY. “Their creativity and courage are an inspiration to all of us, and help our company to find the business solutions of tomorrow.”

The range of areas covered at the EXPO DAY by the STARTUP AUTOBAHN ranges from the development of new materials to discovery of the “sixth sense”. For example the start-up “UBQ Material” from Israel wants to convert previously unusable, non-recyclable waste materials into new materials. These could then replace plastics and later be processed in industries such as vehicle engineering. “We have found a way to reuse previously non-recyclable waste and make new materials from it,” says the founder of UBQ Material, Jack Bigio. “This conserves resources and can help Mercedes-Benz to produce more sustainably.” In this way Mercedes-Benz can take a major step towards full recyclability. First tests on using “artificial materials” from UBQ, made from previously non-recyclable materials, in vehicles or for packaging are already under way.

Discovery of the “sixth sense” might be the motto of a second, very promising participant in the EXPO DAY. At “Ghost” in Berlin, which was founded by Laura Bücheler, complex information is converted into vibrations as if by magic. Used in an automobile, this could e.g. be used in support of voice input for navigation systems. If the driver needs to turn right, for example, a vibration on the right side of the driver’s seat would issue this instruction.

Also as part of the STARTUP AUTOBAHN, Mercedes-Benz Procurement is already involved in a pilot project with the startup Circulor, to create transparency about CO2 emissions in the cobalt supply chain. The startup uses blockchain technology to track the emission of gases harmful to the climate and the proportion of secondary material along the complex supply chains of battery cell manufacturers. 

STARTUP AUTOBAHN – Europe’s most successful innovation platform 

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 with the world of large, established corporations in industrial sectors such as the motor industry. Daimler started the innovation platform STARTUP AUTOBAHN together with the startup Accelerator “Plug and Play”, the University of Stuttgart and the research factory ARENA2036, and organises two three-month programmes each year that culminate in an EXPO DAY.

STARTUP AUTOBAHN in Stuttgart has meanwhile grown to over 28 partners from different industrial sectors such as chemicals, electronics or logistics. In the first year of its existence, this location for the STARTUP AUTOBAHN already became the largest European platform for mobility startups.

Since the STARTUP AUTOBAHN innovation platform was established, Daimler has scouted well over 5000 startups via the platform. Since then, the selected startups have carried out 150 pilot projects in various areas such as IT and artificial intelligence, production or smart materials. The result is an entire innovation network extending around the globe  – with further programmes in the USA, Great Britain, China, India, Singapore, and shortly also in South Korea. More than ten innovations have meanwhile been implemented.

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