LAB 1886: Pioneers’ market place
In Stuttgart, Berlin, Sunnyvale and Beijing, Daimler employees at LAB 1886 are getting innovative project ideas ready for the market. Agile and independent, just under start up conditions. Business models such as car2go, the moovel app, or the cooperation with STARTUP AUTOBAHN have been created here. We spoke with Susanne Hahn, Head of LAB 1886 about her department.
Can you briefly explain to us why Daimler needs its own innovation area. After all, a number of Daimler employees are working on innovations anyway, aren’t they?
Of course, a number of Daimler employees work on innovations on a daily basis so that our product can continue to set standards in the vehicle and mobility industry in the future. Our incubator Lab1886 has the purpose and mandate to promote the development and implementation of innovative new business models. With our new incubator we are going a step further and want to increasingly promote the innovative power of the Daimler employees in the future. If an idea has potential and withstands the selection phase it can be further developed with agile methods and unconventional procedure under start-up conditions. Through our ten years of experience, we as Lab1886, have attempted to support the development of new business models and thus to develop the idea within months to make it market-ready as soon as possible. Our incubators in Stuttgart, Berlin, Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley and in Peking are ready to do this.
Nowadays, all employers want to be “agile” and “innovative”. There is a lot of competition for qualified employees. Where do you recruit the employees you need for the LAB1886? And what requirements does Daimler impose on you?
First, all motivated Daimler can submit their ideas to Lab1886. If an idea proves to have potential and gets through the selection process a team consisting of the originators of the ideas and specialists from the incubator is put together for the incubation phase. The requirements for a team are primarily the will to succeed, drive and a concrete idea of how the idea can be efficiently implemented.
Daimler employees mostly work in permanent positions under the conditions of collective agreements. How does the method of LAB1886 fit together with the structure of a large corporation?
Exactly this is a big advantage: With the know-how and the safeguards of the corporation, the pioneers of the future in the incubator of Lab1886 can work in a startup-like environment and nevertheless benefit from the advantages of being in a corporation. The employees in Lab1886 work independently and with their own methods and structures on the development of their ideas and projects. In the corporation, we try to support them with know-how, expertise and resources as best as possible, but leave them enough scope. If a project proves to be successful, it can be transferred to the group or continued as an autonomous company, for example car2go.
With car2go, the moovel App or STARTUP AUTOBAHN, you have shown how innovative ideas can rapidly be implemented. How can the customer expect to be able to fly from A to B with the Airtaxi?
As a mobility provider, we have recognized that third-dimension mobility is becoming increasingly significant due to urbanization and technological advances. This is why we decided to participate in the start-up company Volocopter GmbH. Volocopters are autonomous flying multicopters with an electrical drive – emissions-free urban air taxis, so to speak. For us, Volocopters are a valuable complement to intermodal, urban mobility. The current Volocopter 2X has undergone a lot of technological development and it already even flies autonomously. This was impressively demonstrated in a test in Dubai. Of course, there are still some challenges we need to master. For instance, the technology needs further development to increase the range, the regulatory framework for urban air traffic must be arranged with national and international authorities and an infrastructure must be created for the scaling.
What expectations do you have of your current and future partners/suppliers? Which industries are they even supposed to come from?
Essentially, our goal in the Lab1886 is to create new business models. The beauty of this is that we don’t have to impose any limits on ourselves here – that also applies to collaboration with our partners. Aside from trustworthiness and honesty, the requirements for our new partners are that they are convinced of their idea and also have a plan as to how we can get from an idea to its implementation together as efficiently as possible. They should also be able to realistically assess what functions and what doesn’t. Aside from a vision, they should also have a drive to implement it and be willing to work in a team. This is because if there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the past ten years of innovation work since the foundation of Lab1886, it’s that: innovation is only possible collectively.