On the third anniversary of the Business Innovation department, Daimler AG makes a positive assessment of this venture. Business Innovation has so far identified 58 new business ideas for the Daimler Group and has started pilot projects for almost a dozen of these potential businesses in the marketplace.

“The young ‘breeding ground for new business ideas’ has pointed out new profitable growth opportunities for the Daimler Group and has found innovative solutions for the challenges of tomorrow’s automotive markets,” explains Dr. Martin Zimmermann, Vice President Strategy, Alliances & Business Innovation at Daimler AG.

“Business Innovation is today the right partner when it’s a matter of finding and rapidly marketing new products and services outside the Group’s core activities of developing, producing and distributing vehicles,” states Dr. Jérôme Guillen, Head of Business Innovation. With the help of Business Innovation, Daimler can push forward its internal innovation processes, allowing it to make better use of the Group’s enormous know-how and improving the networking of its talented and creative workforce.

When Business Innovation started in October 2007, the Board of Management of Daimler AG gave clear instructions to the team of 15 experienced executives under the leadership of Dr. Jérôme Guillen. Business Innovation aims to identify and utilize profitable growth opportunities along the value chain at the Group. The new – or hitherto unused – business ideas must have automotive relevance and revenue potential in line with the Group’s size.

Right from the start, the Business Innovation team worked like a startup company, but with the possibility to make use of the great expertise available at the Daimler Group. The members of the project teams develop new business ideas in close cooperation with the relevant specialist departments at the Group and also with external specialists when necessary. The marketability of a business idea is generally tested in a pilot project. “In pilot projects, we learn how the market works and what customers want very quickly,” says
Dr. Guillen. Lean, efficient processes and extremely good internal and external networking are the basis for the success of the Business Innovation department.

In addition, Business Innovation has strengthened the Daimler workforce’s entrepreneurial spirit over the past three years. With the electronic Web 2.0 Portal Business Innovation Community, a platform has been opened enabling employees all over the world to contribute their ideas, discuss them or develop them further. The Business Innovation Community meanwhile comprises 20,000 employees who have submitted 1,500 business ideas, 35 of which are now being worked on.

Some examples of successful ideas from the Business Innovation department:
car2go: An innovative urban mobility concept as an answer to traffic problems in urban areas. The pilot projects were started in Ulm in 2008 and in Austin, Texas in 2009 and have meanwhile transferred to regular operations. Registered car2go customers can spontaneously rent one of 200 smart fortwo cars in each of those cities, use it as long as they like, and then leave it on a public parking lot within the area of operation. The car rentals are charged by an inexpensive per-minute rate. There are now more than 20,000 users and up to 1,000 fully automated rentals each day in Ulm, and more than 10,000 users are registered in Austin. The company car2go GmbH was founded in March 2010 and will push forward with international commercialization in 2011.

car2gether: The car2gether pilot project started in Ulm in September 2010. car2gether is a web-based car-sharing community that can mediate car-sharing possibilities. Car-sharing can be offered or requested via smart phones or conventional computers. car2gether has been available also in Aachen since the beginning of October.

Solar roof for car2go edition: Business Innovation initiated a project entitled “Solar Energy for Vehicles” in 2009. At the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the car2go edition was presented with a solar roof developed especially for the smart fortwo. This version of the smart will be used for car2go as of 2011.

Mercedes-Benz Young Classics: The first Young Classics Store was opened as a pilot at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart in 2009. The store sells so-called “youngtimers” – cars from the years of 1970 through 1990. With Young Classics, Daimler is closing the gap between new car sales and the highly specialized classic-car business of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Centers in Germany and the United States.
Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy: In the United Kingdom, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy started as a pilot project in mid 2009, offering traffic-education programs for young people. The Driving Academy’s RoadSense product was offered in a pilot project by the Mercedes-Benz sales-and-service center in Stuttgart in June 2010. 36 school classes of young people between 13 and 15 years of age were able to participate in this traffic-education project.

Ex-factory driving aids: Since the beginning of 2010, ex-factory driving aids have been offered by the Mercedes-Benz sales-and-service centers in Freiburg, Stuttgart, Cologne and Hamburg. Customers with restricted mobility can order individually adapted vehicles. A total of fifteen different kinds of driving aids are on offer as well as a selection of seat modifications. Following a successful test phase, ex-factory driving aids have now been offered by all Mercedes-Benz outlets in Germany since the beginning of October. The idea for ex-factory driving aids came from the Business Innovation Community.

Style your smart: The worldwide “Style your smart” design competition has implemented the open-innovation approach in the automotive industry. In 2009, more than 8,000 smart and design fans from over 100 countries took part in a creative competition lasting about six weeks and placed more than 50,000 designs for the exterior of the smart fortwo on the website. The idea for the design competition came from the Business Innovation Community.

Source: Daimler AG