Traverse City conference: Auto supplier Bosch fosters startup culture

August 1, 2018 06:01 CET

TRAVERSE CITY — Now more than a century old, Robert Bosch is adapting to the digital age.

To help make the transition and accelerate innovation, the mega supplier is fostering a startup culture in its work force.

“We have to increase speed in our innovation and become very customer-centric from the beginning,” said Robert Bosch CFO Maximiliane Straub, who spoke Tuesday at the Car Management Briefing Seminars here.

Bosch takes an “inside-out and outside-in” approach to fostering new ideas, Straub told Automotive News.

Through an internal accelerator program called Innovation Framework, Bosch employees are encouraged to develop new ideas.

“We look at everything from ideation to scaling of the business,” Straub said.

Teams are encouraged to experiment with ideas and not be afraid to fail or pivot.

“We want them to learn how to fail early and do it with very little money,” Straub said.

Fostering a startup culture within the organization is an employee recruitment and retention tool, Straub said. The teams receive mentoring from top management and get access to marketing, IT and other resources from across the company.

“We’ve coached about 350 associates so far, and the associates actually come back and become coaches,” Straub said. “They don’t get a lot of money, but they get a lot of our time.”

Bosch’s efforts at driving innovation within the organization are having financial dividends.

“So far, we have about $106 million in contracted new revenue out of the innovation framework,” Straub said.

Fifteen business units have participated in Innovation Framework. Employees “bring this innovation culture back to their businesses,” she said.

Bosch is also turning outward — partnering with startups, established companies and universities through hackathons and accelerators to develop new products and tap into emerging technologies.

“It’s not just about buying startups, but having cooperation,” Straub said. “We co-develop, we have r&d contracts, and often we are mentors.”

Last year, Bosch launched the Connectory in Chicago. Part incubator, part co-working space, the initiative allows Bosch to tap into the region’s startup ecosystem and talent pool. Bosch has similar hubs in Stuttgart and Guadalajara, Mexico.

You can reach Urvaksh Karkaria at ukarkaria@crain.com.

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