Break Out to Open Innovation


Journal Winter 2022 Concern

Working with an open company accelerator program permits Mercedes to extra rapidly incorporate new applied sciences from startups.

Denis Bettenmann, Ferran Giones, Alexander Brem, and Philipp Gneiting

Studying Time: 12 min 

Picture courtesy of Daniel Garcia/

Mercedes-Benz AG produces over 2 million passenger vehicles yearly for a worldwide market within the throes of transformation. Automakers are assembly new calls for for electrification and connectivity, new opponents are arising, and clients have new expectations, akin to the will for sustainable mobility. All of those traits are driving the necessity to pace innovation in each aspect of the automotive business.

In 2016, R&D and digital enterprise managers at Mercedes’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, realized that their efforts to collaborate with startups — a beneficial supply of exterior innovation — had been being hampered by the corporate’s present innovation processes. These processes had been overly centered on inside growth and ready-to-implement options supplied by the corporate’s established base of suppliers and weren’t nicely suited to uncertainty-ridden collaborations with promising expertise startups. The corporate wanted an innovation pathway able to extra successfully integrating startups earlier within the R&D course of and considerably lowering the time required to establish, develop, take a look at, and implement their most promising applied sciences and options.

In response, a brand new workforce inside R&D was fashioned to construct a greater bridge between the promising concepts of exterior startups and the innovation wants of Mercedes’s inside enterprise models. The workforce joined forces with companions from academia and business to cofound Startup Autobahn, what we name an open company accelerator (CA). Not like a traditional company accelerator — sometimes established by a single firm for its personal profit — an open CA welcomes a number of sponsor firms and might appeal to a broader array of extra mature startups. This mannequin, often known as a consortium accelerator, improves sponsor entry to exterior innovation and enhances the general competitiveness of regional ecosystems.1

Startup Autobahn is operated by the Plug and Play Tech Heart on the ARENA2036 analysis campus of the College of Stuttgart. Since its founding, it has attracted 30 massive company sponsors (shoppers for startup options), together with automotive OEMs and suppliers, in addition to firms from different industries, akin to IT, logistics, and chemical substances. It has enabled Mercedes, in its position as a sponsor, to display hundreds of startups, execute greater than 150 pilot tasks, and implement 17 modern options.

As an illustration, Mercedes labored with a startup named What3Words to collectively develop a voice-activated navigation system that guides customers to specific places by dividing the world into 57 billion 3-meter squares.


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4. S. Falk and F. Riemensperger, “Three Classes From Germany’s Platform Financial system,” MIT Sloan Administration Overview, Aug. 5, 2019,

5. Ok. Prexl, M. Hubert, S. Beck, et al., “Figuring out and Analysing the Drivers of Heterogeneity Amongst Ecosystem Builder Accelerators,” R&D Administration 49, no. 4 (September 2019): 624-638.

6. That is enabled however not dictated by the open CA mannequin. Some sponsors in Startup Autobahn select to make fairness investments in startups.

7. Ok.J. Boudreau and Ok.R. Lakhani, “Easy methods to Handle Outdoors Innovation,” MIT Sloan Administration Overview 50, no. 4 (summer season 2009): 69-76.


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