The German automotive industry is accelerating cooperation with business startups, at both national and international level. To this end, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) is working with various projects and initiatives to create a new platform that will greatly enhance the exchange between companies in the automotive industry and business startups. Dr. Kay Lindemann, Managing Director at the VDA, said, “All aspects of digitization exert considerable influence on the automotive industry – customers will notice new mobility services, connected and automated driving, and changes in production. The automotive industry is adapting to new players in its value-added chain, which include in particular young, creative business startups in the fields of software and digital technology. We want to work intensively with these companies to harness their innovations for mobility technology ‘Made in Germany.’ We also hope that this will promote and support the startups and strengthen Germany as a location for innovation.”
The specific aim is that in the future the VDA will integrate companies more into the association’s activities, which among other things will cover new forms of individual mobility, the “Internet of Things,” digital mobility services and entertainment and information functions. This new focus within the association’s work includes regularly forging contacts between the VDA’s member companies and business startups. Startups can present themselves in the VDA’s bodies and at VDA events, for example most recently at the Technical Congress in Ludwigsburg, and at the SME Day in May. Lindemann continued, “In addition, to network both new and established companies, we have launched a Digital Learning Journey, where automotive SMEs have already been able to get to know numerous mobility startups.” Furthermore, a dedicated “Startup Zone” has been created in the New Mobility World at the IAA and this section will be expanded at future trade shows. “We have also been cooperating intensively with the German Startups Association for over a year and will put this partnership on a solid footing,” Lindemann said.
Dr. Tom Kirschbaum, Board member at the German Startups Association, pointed out that now more than ever Germany had to make sure it offered innovation-friendly conditions. “We need a first-class legal and political framework if we are to develop and use ground-breaking mobility technologies. That will involve considerable investment in startup technology by financial investors and major German firms alike, and the most advanced digital infrastructure. Our country must come top in expanding broadband,” Kirschbaum said. Furthermore, the legal and political frameworks for connected and automated driving must be rapidly put in place. “Germany can become the technological leader in this field, if the new vehicles come onto the roads as early as possible. We are pleased that in the future we will be able to push these issues forward together with the VDA,” said entrepreneur Kirschbaum, whose business startup in Berlin, called “ally,” develops software for intelligent and automated traffic in towns and cities.
Lindemann emphasized: “The change in our mobility is progressing faster than ever before – driven especially by digitization. Established companies must re-invent themselves in ever shorter periods. The automotive industry’s goal is to continue setting the standards worldwide using mobility technology ‘Made in Germany.’ It is only logical to approach these innovations along with young technology companies, the startups, and for us to learn from one another.”
Digital transformation of the automotive industry must also be driven forward. The VDA’s cooperation with hy!, a firm partly held by Axel Springer SE, is intended to continue the development and expansion of the necessary digital ecosystem for the German mobility industry. The cooperative project aims to bring together the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs and decision-makers from digital, technological and automotive business, and to initiate specific forms of cooperation that are oriented to innovation and transformation.
Lars Zimmermann, CEO at hy!, sees an opportunity to develop new technological applications and business models from a German base: “Many important stimuli for the development of digital innovations and business models in the area of mobility will emerge from industries that don’t have any direct connection to the automotive industry. The establishment of a global, digital ecosystem spanning multiple industries will enable us to recognize and drive forward relevant developments at an early stage. The automotive industry and the VDA are therefore important partners for us.”
To intensify the contacts between automotive companies and startups, the VDA is also planning a cooperative project with the German Tech Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC). Benjamin Rohé commented: “With our ‘Innovation Meetup Series’ on topics such as the future of energy, blockchain and Bitcoin, and 3-D printing, we want this partnership to create an independent platform enabling exchange between experts, industry, startups, scientists and researchers in an environment relevant to actual practice. Forbes Magazine called GTEC ‘Germany‘s one stop collaboration shop for European startups.’ Since we promote solely startups with technology-based innovations, GTEC links industry and startups in the field of digitization. To facilitate understanding and the sharing of ideas, GTEC offers the VDA’s members the opportunity to take on an active role in workshops, executive education programs and meet-ups.”