Business Innovation, the innovations factory of Daimler AG, is celebrating its tenth birthday. Since 2007, this “Think & Act Tank” has worked successfully on the development of ideas and projects for new business models. This has resulted, for example, in the flexible car sharing service car2go, the mobility app moovel and Mercedes me, the digital access into the world of Mercedes-Benz. To mark the anniversary, Daimler is now launching the next phase in the evolution of its innovation process. Business Innovation is becoming Lab1886. The goal is to move faster from the idea to the product or business model. Lab1886 will act as a new innovation lab of Daimler AG with its own incubator and, in addition to the latest hardware and software, will provide qualified personnel to expertly assist Daimler employees with implementation.

Bodo Uebber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG with responsibility for Finance: “For ten years, Business Innovation has driven forward new ideas and projects that perpetuate the pioneering spirit of our founders and promote a culture of innovation throughout the entire company. This success story will be now continued with Lab1886. It means intelligently combining our business with agile methods and an unconventional approach from the start-up world in order to successfully develop new and innovative business models to market maturity.” Lab1886 will work at four sites on three continents: Stuttgart and Berlin in Germany, Beijing in China and Sunnyvale in the USA. Under working conditions similar to those at a start-up, Daimler is placing its faith in swarm intelligence at Lab1886. The ideas of individual employees, teams and business units should be implemented quickly and unconventionally. To do this, Lab1886 will have all the necessary infrastructure and expertise as well as ten years of experience in the implementation of new business models. Within this freedom, employees can work in flat hierarchies and a creative atmosphere.

“We are using our incubator Lab1886 in a targeted manner to bring internal and external ideas to a successful market maturity,” says Wilko Stark, Head of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz Strategy and Head of CASE. Lab1886 is part of the Daimler CASE initiative. CASE – these letters characterize the future of mobility. They stand for the fields of networking (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric). The four CASE fields are an integral part of Daimler’s corporate strategy.

New ideas management in three phases
Lab1886 combines the Group-wide know-how with the agility of a start-up and has the freedom to address issues that go beyond the core business. Lab1886 works in three phases: in the first phase, Daimler employees are free to submit their ideas. Using instruments from the start-up world, crowd voting and pitches to the shark tank, ideas are selected for the next phase. Defined criteria are used to check whether an idea has the potential to become a new product or business model. The shark tank is made up of a member of the Board of Management, senior managers from various specialist departments, a representative from the Works Council as well as external venture capital experts.

In the second phase of the innovation process, the incubation phase, the projects selected by the shark tank are piloted and developed to market maturity. The idea generators are supported, for example, by professional mentoring, specialist assistance in complex work steps, use of co-working spaces and workshops, financial support, an inspiring work environment and the development of new prototypes. To enable them to work on this phase, employees are released from their other duties. Following a successful incubation phase, in the third phase, commercialisation, the “young” products or new services must face the challenges of the global market. If an idea or product passes this test and has the potential to become a future business model, it is rolled out. The process concludes with incorporation into the Daimler organisation or a spin-off.

“With innovative ideas and business models – such as car2go, Mercedes me and STARTUP AUTOBAHN – Business Innovation has demonstrated over the last ten years that innovation is a team effort,” says Susanne Hahn, Head of Lab1886. “By transforming to Lab1886, we are creating a new space in which our internal thinkers, specialist departments and business units can produce first-class innovations in a high implementation environment. We are goal-oriented, professional and act with inspiring team spirit to develop new solutions for the mobility of the future. ”

Already at the end of May, the first ideas and employees were chosen and included in Lab1886. The pool of employees is a “breathing” entity, which means that it adapts flexibly to the tasks at hand and the number of projects. In a multi-stage process with clearly defined milestones and success criteria, the idea generators and teams work on the implementation of their projects. If successful, there is the prospect of attractive incentives or even a stake in the company.

Volocopter – a new dimension in urban mobility
What it can mean to think outside the box is demonstrated by the involvement in an unconventional idea of vertical mobility. By participating in the start-up company Volocopter GmbH, Lab1886 will support the development of a new dimension of innovative mobility products and services and learn from collaboration in a new mobility segment. With an innovative urban air taxi service, Volocopter aims to give everyone access to vertical urban mobility.

Mobility in the third dimension is gaining in significance in view of growing urbanisation and significant technological progress in the areas of connectivity, sensors, electrics/battery and drone development. On‑demand urban air transport could play a future role in taking the pressure off inner-city roads while providing an alternative, aerial option. Volocopter has the potential to provide an attractive additional means of transport, especially in urban areas. With its all-electric 18‑rotor powertrain, Volocopter offers emission-free, low-noise and innerurban transport and, in the medium term, automated aerial mobility.

Both a manned and an unmanned version of the Volocopter are planned. The line-up for passenger transport includes the VC100 version for one person, the VC200 for two people and the VC400 as a four-seater. With the uVC100 and the uVC200, two delivery drones of different sizes are planned for the unmanned transport of goods. The Volocopter portfolio is rounded off by the uVC400, a heavy-load drone. At the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt in September, the Volocopter VC200 will be unveiled to the public on a large stage.

Source: Daimler AG