The automotive and energy sectors are preparing for disruption. New players such as startups are entering the market and innovative solutions, emerging from current megatrends, are challenging the status quo – making innovation a number one priority for established corporates to stay ahead of the game and shape the future of mobility.

In this article, WhatAVenture and the AVL startup program CREATORS EXPEDITION share their experience and impressions regarding the current times of change:

  • What are the challenges corporates deal with?
  • What are the megatrends that need to be addressed?
  • And which strategies can corporates apply to boost their innovation processes?

New Challenges for the Industry

It is disruptive innovations – and electric mobility in particular – that pose great challenges and possibilities not only to the automotive sector but also the energy industry.

Inevitably, corporates will need to redefine their roles in the industry and recognize this time of change as a chance for innovation. Energy suppliers, for example, are expected to be able to cover the higher power demand emerging from these new technologies. But they also need to address the question if they want to position themselves solely as an energy supplier to third-party technologies or as a provider of their own integrated services and solutions. For example, during our Innovation Challenge for Vienna’s largest energy supplier Wien Energie, a startup-corporate-collaboration led to the implementation of drones as a smart and handy tool to maintain wind turbines.

This constant change is not new to the automotive industry, according to Jonas Schneider, operational manager of AVL’s CREATORS EXPEDITION startup program, “but today, we are experiencing that certain megatrends are impacting the industry at the very same time.” AVL is one of the leading development and engineering companies in the automotive industry and patent leader in Austria. In the past, for example, the company has worked with the Croatian E-Supercar startup Rimac Automobili and equipped them with its battery test and emulation system for the development of electric high-performance vehicles.

Technology Megatrends Shaping the Future of Mobility

CarAutonomous systems, electrification, digitization and big data are named to be the technology megatrends to have an enormous impact on the automotive and energy industries, leading to a general diversification of the market and a shift to integrated solutions. “These megatrends require many different skills compared to what traditional automotive companies have been doing for the last centuries. Startups are now born because those technological changes bring up promising new opportunities,” Jonas Schneider continues.

The megatrend of autonomous systems alone can be broken down into a multitude of individual technologies, ranging from autonomous vehicles to robotics and artificial intelligence. Especially hardware and sensor technology companies recognize the high potential of this trend.

Digitization strongly focuses on digital user experience on one hand (regarding products and services), and transforming the enterprise itself into a digital company on the other (i.e. connected supply chain, industrial internet of things). Big data can mean getting to know how users behave in order to create smart solutions for them (i.e. data-connectivity services, shared mobility, smart city concepts). One example is a parking app by the Austrian startup Payuca. The company rents available long-term parking spaces from their owners and re-rents them to its app users looking for short-term parking. Access is granted by using a smartphone or an NFC chip. Other smart mobility solutions are the WienMobil app by Vienna’s public transport provider Wiener Linien, integrating a variety of means of transportation (like public transport, city bikes, car-sharing, taxi or simply walking) – or Waze, a community-based app for real-time traffic information and navigation.

Electrified vehicles are slowly becoming more viable and competitive due to the increasing efforts on cutting emissions, lower costs and the growing availability of charging infrastructure, especially in cities. This megatrend is bringing the future of mobility into our everyday lives already, and again, it illustrates the close relationship between the automotive and energy industries. Also, the increasing number of startups dedicated to the wide field e-mobility highlights the need of established corporates to stay up-to-date in order to make a strong impact on the future of mobility with innovative solutions.

Strategies for Companies to Benefit from This Change

Clean EnergyFirst off: there is no secret recipe or a one-size-fits-all solution. The most important and initial task for companies is to recognize this current time of change followed by setting strategic goals and measures. The range of innovation models is wide and no company is like the other – that is why it is so important to choose a model in consideration of the company’s individual needs and status quo.

For example, there are innovation excursions (Kapsch) or executive training as part of innovation education. Intrapreneurial programs (as applied by Deutsche Bahn, see different models on our blog), innovation labs or sprints (Austria Presse Agentur) are further options.

Another proven method is accelerator programs. They combine corporate power with startup agility during a temporary acceleration phase. It’s a great and relatively fast way to fill the company’s innovation pipeline, get access to internal and external ideas and engage employees and make them feel valued.

Our recent project, the Salzburg AG Innovation Challenge #2, set a strong focus on digitization. After the three-day Innovation Camp, employees and a selection of globally scouted startups (221 applications from 36 nations) worked on their ideas collaboratively. Out of 300 ideas, the jury finally selected the 5 most promising projects and decided to implement all of them in near future.

Together with WhatAVenture, AVL is currently looking for auto-tech startups that want to boost their business by partnering with a leading player in the industry. “Startups work and think differently than a large engineering corporation,” says Jonas Schneider, who sees great potential not only in internal innovation processes but also in the collaboration with startups. “They have a fresh view on technologies and aren’t afraid to dig into smaller niches. On the other hand, an established corporation benefits from its longer experience and deeper insights into the industry.”

Shape the Future of Mobility with AVL’s Creators Expedition

The Future of Mobility with AVL's Creators ExpeditionThe application for AVL’s CREATORS EXPEDITION is still running. Startups applying until November 30 get the additional chance to participate in the “Auto-Tech Innovation Alm”, a two-day event in the mountains. Apply now and shape the future of mobility!