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Innovation challenge for SA startups

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Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA), the LaunchLab and Startup Autobahn have partnered to offer students, professionals and existing startups the chance to win a share of R600 000.00.
The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Innovation Challenge will target two streams. It will ask interested students and professionals (as a first stream) and existing startups (as a second stream) to pitch their innovative ideas around a set of challenges, tailor-made to advanced manufacturing and benchmark sales and marketing topics, as identified by Mercedes-Benz South Africa.
The challenge spans various topics – ranging from big data and machine learning for manufacturing, the digitisation of logistics and production, app-based solutions for the evaluation of the condition of pre-owned vehicles, chatbot solutions for manufacturing learning and many more.
The three partners are well-matched to create this unique opportunity for South African innovation talent.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a proud history and heritage in South Africa spanning more than six decades. Being part of the global Daimler network, a company with a track record in innovation and pioneering spirit of over a century, offers the successful participants access to expert input and guidance without parallel.
The LaunchLab, a cutting edge, mixed-use business incubator based at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape and currently building a network of university campus-based incubators in Africa to help develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem that accelerates entrepreneurs to a new level, will facilitate the challenge – running from end of August to November 2017.
The third partner, Startup Autobahn, is a global innovation platform, co-founded by Daimler, with locations in Germany, Singapore and China, that connects startups with corporates in the mobility and production industry.
At the end of the process successful participants from the first stream, students and professionals, stand the chance to win incubation support for their innovative ideas. The successful participants from the second stream, the existing startup companies, stand a chance to get their share of R600 000 for supplier development, international exposure and the possibility to become a supplier for Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s global parent company, Daimler.
All interested parties can register for an information seminar, to be hosted on the 31st of August 2017 from 11:00 at the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab premises in Stellenbosch.
Immediately after the information seminar, the submission phase will open, where participants can submit a video online or pitch in front of a camera at various participating campuses until the end of September. A shortlist of candidates/teams in both streams will then be notified and entered into the second phase of the process where their ideas will be polished and benefit from access to Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Daimler AG and Startup Autobahn expert role-players.
In November the shortlisted groups will then have the opportunity to present their ideas to Mercedes-Benz South Africa decision makers.
“MBSA has partnered with the LaunchLab as part of our continuing efforts to contribute to youth development, the economic growth and sustainability of the country as a whole. The areas that the challenge is focusing on are key to our continued growth and success as we operate in a highly competitive space,” says Andreas Engling, CEO and executive director: manufacturing at Mercedes-Benz South Africa.
“The LaunchLab is very excited to have joined hands with Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Startup Autobahn on the Mercedes-Benz South Africa Innovation Challenge. This is another example of a well-known multinational seeing the value of engaging with the startup ecosystem and we are very pleased to be able to facilitate the interaction between these two groups to leverage the strengths of both, for mutual benefit. This is an awesome opportunity for our local entrepreneurs,” says Philip Marais, CEO of the LaunchLab.
“We are excited to get in touch with promising tech startups from the region. With the platform Startup Autobahn, we can support them and further shape the future of mobility and production,” says Anke Kleinschmit’s, vice-president: group research and sustainability at Daimler AG.