EIC Corporate Corner with Mercedes-Benz: Gearing up new partnerships
The European Innovation Council (EIC) regularly hosts EIC Corporate Days, matchmaking events between Europe's largest corporates and EIC beneficiaries. In this new series, we will discover what makes these corporates tick, what is their approach to innovation and what are they looking for. This month's guest is Michael Vormittag, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at Mercedes-Benz AG.
On 11 and 12 May 2021, the European Innovation Council (EIC) in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, the German car maker, brought together nine EIC-beneficiaries for yet another EIC Corporate Day. Attending SMEs had the chance to pitch their innovative new solutions and services in the fields of health, female customer product innovation, input technologies for future UX, leather alternatives, digital marketing and managed services for cloud infrastructure.
Can you briefly describe your role within the company?
I am responsible for innovation and partnerships in the area of marketing and sales. My team and I are looking into how we can drive innovation in our company further through the power of collaboration. We work with both internal and external stakeholders. To do this, we are running startup programs and support our teams in the marketing and sales space to collaborate with SME’s. One way of doing this is partnering with ecosystem players such as the EIC. With the EIC Corporate Day, we are looking into the European startup ecosystem to identify, what we call, non-traditional technology partners. After identifying them, we help both sides to collaborate. In other words, we act as a bridge between the different cultures, the processes, the expectations.
Can you tell us more about your approach to open innovation?
We have two teams which actively look into the open ecosystem for startups and SMEs, and they are both involved in the EIC Corporate Day. On the one hand, my team “Digital Innovation & Partnerships” focuses specifically on topics in the domains of Marketing, Sales, Aftersales and IT. On the other hand, we have our colleagues from “Startup Autobahn”, who have a much broader focus and act as our global innovation platform for startups from all domains. Both teams have in common that they act as a hub to connect the outside world with the teams within the Mercedes-Benz AG. Additionally, we also have other initiatives to foster open innovation. Some examples can be the “Daimler in-car coding challenge” which is still going on, or an “in-car gaming challenge” we had in the past.
Recently, you teamed up with the EIC to co-host an EIC Corporate Day. Can you explain the motivation behind joining forces with the EIC?
First of all, it is a great initiative and I really do believe that European corporates can take value from European SMEs and startups. Secondly, looking at it in a more holistic way, a partnership like this is not only important for corporates and SMEs, but also for all the intermediaries and ecosystems as well as for the EIC. We all forge relationships between us. Bringing technology startups and SMEs together with a corporate creates a win-win situation as the corporate benefits from access to the technology and the SME from the business opportunity. Adding now the intermediary with the goal of facilitating these relationships to the equation, we have a triple win situation. This is something that can help to maximize the value for our economy.
What type of partnerships are you looking for with startups?
In my daily work, the primary goal is to generate a valuable business opportunity with a corporate-startup engagement. For both us and of course also our partners. We never look for a specific type of collaboration without having in mind the reasoning and the potential business value. Therefore, we are naturally looking into all kinds of relationships. If a supplier agreement with an SME holds the most value for both sides, we engage in a supplier agreement. If it happens to be a joint venture, investment or acquisition, this can also be possible. What is important is that there is always a reasoning behind a certain type of collaboration.
Any advice/tips for companies that want to work with you?
One piece of advice that I can give is that all the companies we selected sparked some interest from someone from our teams. Everyone should be aware that by being invited to a corporate day, you have a relevant value proposition for the sponsor, in our case Mercedes-Benz. Now the task is to identify if that first spark of interest leads to something deeper, to a valuable business partnership. A message to the startups out there: Be passionate about your product, but also be honest. Try to convince your partners about the value you can bring to the table. Be nimble and determined but also know when it does not “click”; If you find and communicate your true value, then there is definitely a bright future ahead!
More information on Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz focuses on the development, production and sales of passenger cars, vans and vehicle-related services. The product portfolio comprises the Mercedes-Benz brand with the sub-brands of Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Maybach, Mercedes-EQ, G-Class and the smart brand. The Mercedes me brand offers access to the digital services from Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz AG is one of the world's largest manufacturers of luxury passenger cars. In 2020, it sold around 2.1 million passenger cars and nearly 375,000 vans.
More EIC Corporate Days?
Want to have the opportunity to create win-win situations with Europe’s largest corporates? The EIC regularly hosts Corporate Days, for the moment fully online. For further events please keep an eye on our BAS calendar. For more impressions and info on EIC Corporate Days check out our EIC Corporate Day Highlight report and video.