BMW Startup Garage secures early access to pioneering innovations

The BMW Startup Garage – part of the company’s Research, New Technologies and Innovations unit – has been tracking down the most innovative startups in the business for four years now, allowing the BMW Group to tap into their potential quickly and directly. So far, more than 50 up-and-coming technology companies have completed its startup programme. “Startups help us to gain an even better understanding of what personal, connected and sustainable mobility will look like in tomorrow’s world, to come up with the necessary solutions and so continue to lead the way in innovation and technology going forward,” says Bernhard Schambeck, Head of the BMW Startup Garage. The BMW Startup Garage talks with over 1,500 startups from all over the world every year. If first impressions indicate that a particular startup innovation is of potential interest for the BMW Group, it is examined in greater detail. Between 600 and 800 startups are assessed every year and a decision taken on their suitability for inclusion in the BMW Startup Garage’s programme.

“We strive to bring the world’s best startups into our programme,” explained Melanie Rösler, responsible for the BMW Startup Garage programme. “We look for startup innovations that will be of substantial benefit for our products, services, systems or processes.” Instead of pursuing a venture capital approach, the BMW Startup Garage settled on a ‘venture client’ model. In their early days, many startups still don’t have a marketable product. It is precisely during this very high-risk phase that the fledgling companies are commissioned by the BMW Startup Garage, hence the term ‘venture client’. The programme’s core aim is to develop a working prototype as part of a pilot project. The BMW Group reaps the benefits of early access to the innovations and the opportunity to customise the technology before it is launch-ready. The startups, meanwhile, gain valuable insights into automotive processes, are able to build up a network of contacts within the company and are given advice on how to refine their business plan to help them gain a foothold in the automotive industry.

The worldwide search for startups: thinking outside the box

The BMW Group’s technology scouting network has a global reach. The BMW Startup Garage runs small, agile teams stationed at international technology hotspots. It now has representatives working at the BMW Group Technology Offices in Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo. And these will be joined by a presence in Tel Aviv in the third quarter of 2019.

Whereas the BMW Startup Garage initially focused primarily on innovations for the BMW Group’s products and services, since 2018 its programme has been extended to startup innovations for all business units. “The sheer range of topics we deal with makes our job in the Garage a very exciting and challenging one,” enthused Alexandra Renner, Startup Lead for Research and Development. “A normal working day can quite easily mean creating the interior of the future with startups in the morning, before turning our attention to innovations for autonomous driving in the afternoon.” A total of 26 startups completed the BMW Startup Garage programme in 2018.

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