Collaboration for more innovation.
Although collaboration is a proven driver of innovation, there are many things standing in the way of allowing it to function well. One key factor is that there is no contact in the first place across sectors and companies. As one of Europe’s most innovative regions, the Munich Metropolitan Area is showing how contact can be established – with hubs that facilitate collaboration and break down silos. LabCampus is a perfect example of this.
Groundbreaking innovations are rarely the result of isolated brilliance but usually emerge following collaboration between clever minds from different professions. This applies equally to research, politics and business. Numerous scientific studies reveal that businesses can increase their chances of success if they take a collaborative approach to innovation.
Professor Thomas F. Hofmann, President of the Technical University Munich, summed it up during the opening of LabCampus: “Innovations are not produced in individual minds, but are the result of many minds coming together.” This may sound straightforward, but it is often easier said than done. Competitiveness, a lack of communication, bureaucracy and insufficient meeting places are just some of the obstacles that stand in the way of collaboration that functions well.
A rethink is therefore needed: collaboration is made possible “when we move away from egosystems to develop ecosystems, and different kinds of expertise come together in one place – we co-localise them, as they say,” explained Prof. Hofmann. Co-localisation is so important because collaboration means much more than ‘just’ working together. It represents openness, transparency, equality, longevity, interdisciplinarity and trust – and all of these aspects work best in a shared ecosystem.
LabCampus provides just such an ecosystem – and thus the ideal basis for disruptive innovations. International corporations, hidden champions and scale-ups have made it their home. LabCampus ensures that the campus residents grow together to form a vibrant community, even beyond the innovation centre itself – with connections to the innovation ecosystem in the Munich Metropolitan Area, a link to Munich Airport and just a 45-minute journey from Munich city centre. This is where cutting-edge research and economic power come together in a creative melting pot of ideas.
The players think beyond isolated endeavours. Instead, they share their knowledge and work together on new ideas, helping the Bavarian capital to develop into one of the most innovative metropolises in Europe. Numerous success stories are the result.
One example is UnternehmerTUM, the biggest centre for start-ups and innovation in Europe. This is where people come together to create lasting value and tackle society’s biggest challenges. More than 12,000 participants and over 50 scalable start-ups as well as 180 innovation partnerships each year speak for themselves. Then there are the studies such as those conducted by the UnternehmerTUM Business Creators (UBC). For example, a cluster featuring over 50 outstanding circular economy start-ups was recently published – to inspire established companies to produce more innovations. BlaBlaCar, Kleiderkreisel and Tier were among the businesses in the cluster.
Another example is the research and development network DigiGuss, which is committed to greater digitalisation and the efficient use of resources in the foundry industry. The industry is struggling with continuously rising costs for raw materials, energy and labour, generating a considerable degree of pressure to innovate. The network jointly develops innovative solutions for the industry and is part of the Central Innovation Programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. The focus is on issues such as waste heat utilisation, carbon dioxide reduction, AI-based production optimisation and the use of alternative energy sources.
The joint project eMobiGrid is also designed to be collaborative. It is concerned with optimally integrating the charging infrastructure into the stationary energy grid to allow the further expansion of e-mobility. Its success depends on close cooperation between various disciplines. The control technology experts from Richter R&W and the charging infrastructure specialists from eCharge Hardy Barth are overseeing the eMobiGrid project. Together, they are developing flexible, isolated DC/DC converter technology that can charge passenger cars and commercial vehicles.
And, of course, the automotive industry, which is so strong in Bavaria, is also leading the way as a driver of innovation and a backer of collaborative projects.
The Catena-X Automotive Network is a wonderful example of this. It brings together automotive manufacturers, third-party service providers, dealer associations and equipment suppliers on a common platform to facilitate knowledge transfer, promote collaboration and shape the future of mobility together. Notable companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Robert Bosch, SAP, Siemens and ZF Friedrichshafen are already part of this network.
These examples demonstrate one thing above all else: collaborative ecosystems work particularly well when the players benefit from one another and become an innovative factor for each other. Collaboration thus becomes ‘economical’ for all parties involved – in the sense that the players are pursuing the same goals together. Yet this also means that anyone can be a player, from companies to universities. It is precisely this diversity that makes economic collaborative ecosystems so successful.
From a technical point of view, it doesn’t matter whether the collaboration is physical or digital in nature. However, the most successful examples, especially Silicon Valley, are physical. LabCampus is therefore pursuing the same course. At Munich Airport, it provides a home for a diverse community – from generalists to specialists, from researchers to practitioners. One example of this is the Department of Aerospace and Geodesy at the Technical University Munich, which will move into LabCampus in order to be able to work specifically with the world of business.
The advantage here is that the constant influx of new residents accelerates the transfer of knowledge, supported by LabCampus, which promotes dialogue within the community. As a result, partners who would otherwise never have met elsewhere can get together in person. Or, to quote Professor Thomas F. Hofmann: minds coming together. And this is precisely where collaborative innovations are born. In this regard, the Munich Metropolitan Area together with LabCampus are an encouraging example of how we can shape the future together.