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Lab1886 Global Innovation Machine.

The transformation of Daimler Business Innovation.

Anything but Coincidence.

Innovation is never coincidental. It follows a clear path. Driven by the passion to make the unimaginable possible, one experiments with and rebuilds knowledge. Innovation is the process of taking visions from the mind and putting them on solid ground. 'Innovation is the process of taking visions from the mind and putting them on solid ground. Common principles are questioned and, if necessary, rejected. This requires courage, perseverance and a place to experiment – a garage, for example,' explains Lab 1886 manager Susanne Hahn. When Gottlieb Daimler left the Deutz engine factory in 1882, no one dreamed that he would reinvent mobility in his garage in 1886. Lab1886 carries on the tradition of this innovative culture. As the nucleus of a global innovation ecosystem, this is where new business models are created, tested, and prepared for the market.

First Place for Daimler Business Innovation.

Daimler Business Innovation was launched in late 2007. This makes the innovation think tank one of the oldest in Germany – and also one of the most successful. In cooperation with Infront Consulting & Management, Capital Magazine evaluated 17 of Germany's leading innovation labs in June 2017. Daimler Business Innovation was ranked in first place, together with the Lufthansa Innovation Hub and the MAN X-Lab. Daimler's think & act tank scored particularly well in pilot project methodology and scaling. Nowhere else is a company so committed to making the ideas developed in the lab truly great. The evaluation also showed the best possible support from senior management along with a nearly optimal link to the company's targets.

Business Innovation Is Lab1886.

In its tenth year, the innovation platform is getting a new name: Lab1886. The new branding combines Gottlieb Daimler's heritage with the challenges of today and tomorrow. The 'Lab' combines the everyday garage culture with a passion for innovation. This is where you will find a quintessential pioneering spirit together with the drive to shape the future of mobility and develop innovative business models. Lab1886 stands for a commitment to creating the best products and services for Daimler AG customers.

Lab1886 Attracts Talent.

Since its launch, Daimler Business Innovation has steadily transformed to create many of the company's firmly established, profitable business models. From a single location in Stuttgart, it has grown into a global innovation network with offices in Berlin, Beijing, and Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley). To strengthen this pioneering spirit, Lab1886 is now opening additional sites in Berlin and Stuttgart. The focus in Berlin will be on digital business models. In Stuttgart, a large incubation garage will be opened for a cross-divisional, co-creation network.


Susanne Hahn: 'Lab1886 is already a magnet for professional talent within the Daimler Group and from across the globe. This is the result of a distinctive team spirit. People who work here understand that innovation comes from joining together.' At the same time, it is the unconventional way innovative business models are developed here from new ideas. Only the best concepts are considered for further development. Work in the incubator is structured by defined milestones and clear processes. If an idea doesn't pass this stress test, it will be discontinued – for example, if a project is not scalable or is unlikely to achieve the desired result in the foreseeable future. The motivation to create truly marketable products and services is also rewarded through profit-sharing. This gives Lab1886 its own special charm: it intelligently combines the company's know-how with the speed and culture of start-ups.

Innovations: Sustainable and Disruptive.

Lab1886 and STARTUP AUTOBAHN are two complementary concepts – like yin and yang. STARTUP AUTOBAHN serves as an assessment center that places independent start-ups from outside the corporate universe under the microscope. As an incubation network, Lab1886 is the counterpart. Like a trainee program, it focuses more on in-house employees and on exceptional ideas. Only the best concepts and talents are promoted – both internally and externally. For example, ideas created by STARTUP AUTOBAHN can be added to the incubator and later converted into real business models. Lab1886 follows an efficient methodology divided into three phases and based on clearly-defined success criteria.


Each idea is initially subjected to an ideation process and a validation phase. The ideas come from outside the company, from different Daimler Group departments, or from employee teams. Only a few of the many submissions make it to the final pitch – the Shark Tank. This is the final stage that decides whether an idea will be incubated. It's almost like an Olympic Decathlon: candidates and their visions must meet 13 criteria.

Placing visions on solid ground.

Only those who succeed enter the incubation phase. From here, the selected projects receive additional support to develop the visions. They are also supplemented with the skills they lack. These include professional mentoring and specialist support for complex workflows. It also provides access to co-working spaces and workshops as well as funding. This inspiring work environment spawns new prototypes in short sprints along with meaningful pilot project designs.


If the concept is still viable, the third phase – commercialization – is launched. In this final step, the new products or services are prepared for challenges in a global market. If the vision is sustainable and has the potential, for example, to change the future of mobility, a roll-out follows. This involves a transfer to the line organization or perhaps a spin-off – ideally accompanied by the close-knit team that is now already in place.
The innovation process has created developments ranging from applications, products, and services, to complete business models. The value-adding success of the Daimler think tank is underscored by car2go, moovel, She's Mercedes, STARTUP AUTOBAHN, Remanufactoring, Mercedes-Benz Energy Storage, and what is now Europe's biggest innovation platform, STARTUP AUTOBAHN. Supported by the pioneering spirit of the founding fathers and energized by the challenges of today and tomorrow, Lab1886 is writing a new chapter in the Daimler success story.

Authors: Christian Geiss and David Menzel