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Mercedes-Benz Vans launches “Startup adVANce” competition for partners for future transport solutions

With “Startup adVANce”, a large-scale startup partnership challenge, Mercedes-Benz Vans is starting its search for intelligent solutions relating to the transport of goods and passengers. As part of its recently introduced strategic initiative adVANce (earlier post), the company is to invest a total of €1 million (US$1.12 million). The goal is to find new, innovative partners with whom Mercedes-Benz Vans can establish long-term partnerships without constricting the startups.

Digitalization, urbanization and the Internet of Things are just a few of the megatrends that are placing new demands on virtually every industry. General changes in consumer behavior and mobility patterns are directly affecting logistics providers and vehicle manufacturers. Online buyers, for example, expect new services such as same-day or time-definite delivery and want to know where their orders are at all times. Further, the number of deliveries is growing rapidly.

People’s mobility behavior is changing as well. Individually adaptable passenger transport systems are playing an increasingly important role. And, not least, crowded roads in inner-city zones are presenting new challenges for the transport industry and, as a result, for the manufacturers of vans.

We aren’t simply looking for new solutions. We are looking for partners with whom we can drive forward and implement innovations. Our goal isn’t to generate a vast number of creative ideas which, in a worst case scenario, are just going to end up in a drawer. We are looking for people and young companies that are able to work with us to transform innovative ideas quickly and successfully into initial working prototypes.

—Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans

The competition, initiated by Mercedes-Benz Vans and supported by the EU Commission, has a clear goal: identifying and supporting innovations and startups which will make future transport even more efficient with intelligent and new ideas. Looked for are both hardware and software solutions and innovative concepts for business models relating to the van. Mercedes-Benz Vans looks out for promising technology solutions in three specific fields. These are:

  • Connectivity/IoT (digital@vans): hardware and software solutions which promote the connectivity of the van and enable real-time interaction between all factors involved in transport, such as goods and vehicle.

  • Cargo space optimisation (solutions@vans): ideas and solutions relating to the cargo space, such as automated racking systems, and the optimisation of loading and unloading processes.

  • Mobility concepts (mobility@vans): innovative mobility concepts and sharing solutions which, for example, increase the vehicles’ capacity utilisation or offer customers new and cost-effective mobility solutions.

The competition will run in three stages: Interested startups can complete a quick, straightforward online questionnaire, outlining their ideas for the three categories until 15 January 2017. Independent startup experts will then invite a maximum of 80 applicants to take part in the idea refinement phase. In this phase the submitted ideas will be fleshed out in workshops together with Mercedes-Benz Vans. Personal contacts will be established. The ten best startups will take part in the concept phase and will each be given a financial support of €10,000 to generate implementable concepts within a timeframe of around two months.

As the projects are developed, the participants will gain a deeper insight into the work of Mercedes-Benz Vans. Those who prove most convincing will reach the final. In the prototype phase a maximum of five selected teams will work with Mercedes-Benz Vans to turn their ideas into functional prototypes. Mercedes-Benz Vans developers will work with the startups to promote the development of the prototypes, pooling resources. The prototypes will be submitted to a test phase for which Mercedes-Benz Vans will make a further €900,000 (US$1 million) available.

In addition to financial assistance, Mercedes-Benz Vans will support the finalists with know-how.

As an internationally successful company, we have resources, contacts and, even more importantly, experience and expertise. The two worlds—startup and global company—will prove the ideal foil for one another. All sides will benefit from the close collaboration.

—Volker Mornhinweg

Unlike many other competitions of this kind, the financial support does not go hand-in-hand with Mercedes-Benz Vans acquiring a stake in the participating companies.

The challenge offers both sides a forum which will allow them to get to know each other in an informal environment and embark on a fruitful collaboration. At the end of the challenge, there will be various options for future collaborations.

Interested startups can find out more about “Startup adVANce”, including entry conditions, requirements and the competition process, at http://startup-advance.mercedes-benz.com. Submissions for the first phase will only be accepted via the online portal and the closing date is 15 January 2017.


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