Tech Start-Ups Take Fast Lane on Autobahn Program

For technology start-up companies that think the automotive industry is all about engines and tires, think again: German automobile makers want your ideas to help make the cars of tomorrow.

The Trade Commissioner Service encourages Canadian automotive IT start-ups/scale-ups  and related technology companies targeting or perhaps thinking of targeting the automotive sector to consider applying for the next round of STARTUP AUTOBAHN  – www.startup-autobahn.com  – which describes itself as “the spirit of Silicon Valley in the hub of mobility engineering”.  Canadian tech start-ups that “may not even have thought about supplying the automotive industry” might be well-timed to apply for the fourth round of STARTUP AUTOBAHN, a new innovation initiative to get technology start-ups to working directly with a key automobile maker in Germany.

Named for the high-speed German highway “Autobahn”—the only one in the world without a speed limit—STARTUP AUTOBAHN “is about accelerating joint projects between young technology companies and our corporate partners,” the program’s web site states.

STARTUP AUTOBAHN claims to be Europe’s largest innovation platform driven primarily by the German automotive OEM Daimler (Mercedes-Benz, SMART and commercial vehicle brands) in cooperation with Plug and Play of Silicon Valley.   Other corporate partners include Porsche, BASF, HP Enterprise, ZF and DHL. Located in Stuttgart, Germany the platform seeks “hard tech start-ups and scale-ups” at the nexus of IT and the automotive industries.   Examples of topics of interest include IoT, manufacturing, logistics, location-based services, cyber security, biometrics, natural language processing, process optimization, customer experience, and predictive analytics.  A focus on artificial intelligence / machine learning and quantum computing has also been announced.   In a broader sense, any technologies considered to be of benefit to the digital transformation of the automotive sector would be appropriate.

As the name implies, STARTUP AUTOBAHN offers a fast ramp up of early-to-late stage ideas and products by operating a couple of three-month programs annually.  Selected applicants will have the chance to work hand-in-hand with Daimler and other corporate mentors in the maker space ARENA 2036 in Stuttgart, Germany frequently on proof-of-concept projects.  Investment funding possibilities are not at the centre of STARTUP AUTOBAHN but may be available.

Applications for round 4 of the program are now open online – www.startup-autobahn.com – with a deadline of mid-December 2017.  Daimler has recently undertaken tech scouting missions to Canada and is keen to enlist numerous applications from the Canadian tech eco-system.  Selected applicants will begin their three month project in Stuttgart in March 2018.   Three Canadian firms – Acerta, GBatteries and fluent.ai  – were among the 33 companies chosen for round 3.  Daimler and the other corporate partners welcome an even higher level of Canadian participation for the next round.

The Canadian Consulate in Munich attended the first public presentation of the initial round during the “Expo Day” in February 2017 and has since worked closely with Daimler on its tech scouting activities in Canada.  Further thoughts on the suitability of the innovation platform for Canadian tech companies are gladly provided.

Please contact Kurt de Vries, Trade Commissioner covering Automotive and Ground Transportation, at Kurt.DeVries@international.gc.ca or 416-973-0645.

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