It’s becoming clearer and clearer that for traditional car makers investing in new and more powerful engines, as well as better chassis for the cars they make, is not nearly enough anymore. Companies these days must keep up with the fast pace at which the technology we’re using on a daily basis is evolving. And BMW plans to do so, investing more and more in tech companies, start-ups and setting up its own innovation labs.

This week, the UK branch announced a short list of five start-ups that will be part of an innovation lab over the course of 2018. The start-ups will undertake a 10-week residency at the Lab to develop their applications, before pitching to senior BMW executives on 22 March 2018. Successful start-ups will then be able to secure ongoing relationships with the automotive firm’s UK commercial divisions.

The BMW Innovation Lab engages with technology start-ups to develop specific solutions around BMW Group UK’s three commercial divisions: BMW UK, BMW Financial Services and fleet manager Alphabet. It brings outside talent and technology into the business to create new solutions to future-proof operations or engage customers. The Lab is also designed to assist the company  in “adopting a more flexible and disruptive culture.” What that will translate to eventually, remains to be seen.

Now in its second year, the inaugural Lab saw four out of five finalist start-ups on-boarded into BMW Group UK’s commercial divisions in 2017. The cohort included cloud-based loan servicing platform Divido, which is now being rolled out across BMW UK’s entire network of 150 retailers. Building on last year’s success, 21 start-ups were shortlisted from a total of 142 applications from 36 countries including Singapore, Brazil and South Africa. Shortlisted firms then pitched to the BMW Innovation Lab panel, who chose the final five who would secure a place in the 2018 Lab.

The five successful start-ups selected for the BMW Innovation Lab 2018 are: – a location data platform that provides better engagement and marketing opportunities to their customers through geo-targeting
• Ocasta – a mobile-focused development studio that provides a platform for employee-centric communications and an operations suite
• Overfit Technologies – an employee retention and analytics platform which uses data mapping to help businesses make the most out of data
• easyCar Club – peer-to-peer car and van hire service with more than 10,000 members, it allows vehicle owners to earn money from their car or van when they are not using it
 DOVU – a blockchain startup operating in the transport and mobility sector which rewards data sharing to create a ‘circular economy’

The selected start-ups will now be mentored by a BMW UK leadership team in a collaborative working environment at the company’s UK HQ. They will be provided with business education programs, links to industry experts, and access to investors alongside fundraising support.