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About ideas that drive us

1.7 billion Google hits and lots of charts with symbolic light bulbs - anyone searching online for "innovation" quickly realizes: it's a topic in demand, but at the same time difficult to grasp. What can innovation look like in concrete terms? We took a closer look in Augsburg.

Teresa Scheunert
August 10, 2022
Reading Time: 3 min.

Full of joy, the young men and women of the Augsburg start-up "aluco" hold the huge check up to the camera. For their idea of optimizing logistics planning for pallet shipments and thereby eliminating transport inefficiencies, they have just been awarded a prize at the "Swabia 2030" pitch event organized by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK). Now they stand next to patron Markus Söder and smile into the cameras. "We need a start-up mentality, we need start-ups," said the Bavarian Minister President during the event. "Especially young people who move the economy with innovative ideas." 

The Augsburg start-up "aluco" won the pitch event "Schwaben 2030" and was presented with the prize money by patron Markus Söder in the form of a huge check.  
Jury member and Augsburg Mayor Eva Weber also emphasized how important new ideas are for a region: "Augsburg as a location will always change and we will always have to reinvent ourselves. Simply also because the world changes and keeps on turning." For example, Augsburg was once a center for the textile industry, and the diesel engine also first ignited in the Bavarian-Swabian city. Today, Augsburg benefits from the Bavarian high-tech agenda and is home to global technology companies such as MAN Energy Solutions and KUKA.

Equipped for the future with innovations

Peter Mohnen, CEO of automation expert KUKA, also evaluated the pitches of the young founders as a member of the competition jury. He was thrilled about the innovative ideas, ranging from mobile battery charging columns and predictive maintenance systems to a covered electric bike for congested city centers. 
"Especially in the challenging times we are currently experiencing, we need to focus on ideas and innovation," said Peter Mohnen. "That's the only way we'll manage to equip ourselves for the future. As CEO of a technology company, I know: this focus is crucial not only for startups, but also for established large companies." 
That's why global companies like KUKA are also increasingly focusing on innovative ideas. "Innovations can happen anytime, anywhere. There is no predestined environment for it. Nowadays, you have to improve everywhere, otherwise you are not competitive," says Dr. Ulrike Tagscherer, Chief Innovation Officer at KUKA. After all, innovation basically means creating something new that can be successfully implemented on the market.

Especially in the challenging times we are currently experiencing, we need to focus on ideas and innovation. That's the only way we'll manage to equip ourselves for the future. 

Peter Mohnen, CEO of KUKA

For the Augsburg-based company, this means developing products and solutions technologically, but also working on new business models or innovative processes. But how do you find these business models and developments? 
KUKA has set up its own unit for this purpose, the Business Innovation Lab, where employees' initial innovative ideas are turned into concrete projects. The important thing here is to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. And personal exchange is particularly important here.

Innovations can happen anytime, anywhere. There is no predestined environment for it. 

Dr. Ulrike Tagscherer, Chief Innovation Officer at KUKA

Start-up meets corporation 

Two weeks after the Chamber of Industry and Commerce competition, two - ultimately rather similar - worlds meet at KUKA: The start-up teams that were finalists at the pitch event discuss their ideas with KUKA's innovation teams in a joint workshop. The goal: to learn from each other and to further develop their own business ideas with this new input.
The winning team of "Swabia 2030" also took part - and was enthusiastic: "We found the workshop at KUKA very enriching," sums up Franziska Bartenschlager, a founding member of aluco. "The exchange with KUKA's internal teams and the startups produced interesting discussions and topics from which we were able to take away quite a bit."
Dr. Ulrike Tagscherer, Chief Innovation Officer at KUKA and Peter Mohnen, KUKA CEO in conversation with representatives of Augsburg start-ups. 
Only time will tell whether sustainable business models will emerge from this. But one aspect already characterizes all participants: the will to create something new and drive innovation.
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