The BMW Startup Garage was set up four years ago, as part of the company’s Research, New Technologies and Innovations Unit. It has been tracking down the most innovative startups in the business for years now, allowing the BMW Group to tap into their potential quickly and directly. So far, more than 50 up-and-coming technology companies have completed its startup program while exchanges with over 1,500 startups from around 30 countries have been done every year.

“Startups help us to gain an even better understanding of what personal, connected and sustainable mobility will look like in tomorrow’s world, to come up with the necessary solutions and so continue to lead the way in innovation and technology going forward,” says Bernhard Schambeck, Head of the BMW Startup Garage. If first impressions indicate that a particular startup innovation is of potential interest for the BMW Group, it is examined in greater detail.

Between 600 and 800 startups are assessed every year and a decision taken on their suitability for inclusion in the BMW Startup Garage’s program. “We strive to bring the world’s best startups into our program,” explained Melanie Rösler, responsible for the BMW Startup Garage program. “We look for startup innovations that will be of substantial benefit for our products, services, systems or processes.”

Instead of pursuing a venture capital approach, the BMW Startup Garage settled on a ‘venture client’ model. In their early days, many startups still don’t have a marketable product. It is precisely during this very high-risk phase that the fledgling companies are commissioned by the BMW Startup Garage, hence the term ‘venture client’. The program’s core aim is to develop a working prototype as part of a pilot project.

The BMW Group reaps the benefits of early access to the innovations and the opportunity to customize the technology before it is launch-ready. The startups, meanwhile, gain valuable insights into automotive processes, are able to build up a network of contacts within the company and are given advice on how to refine their business plan to help them gain a foothold in the automotive industry.

Whereas the BMW Startup Garage initially focused primarily on innovations for the BMW Group’s products and services, since 2018 its program has been extended to startup innovations for all business units. “The sheer range of topics we deal with makes our job in the Garage a very exciting and challenging one,” enthused Alexandra Renner, Startup Lead for Research and Development. “A normal working day can quite easily mean creating the interior of the future with startups in the morning, before turning our attention to innovations for autonomous driving in the afternoon.” A total of 26 startups completed the BMW Startup Garage program in 2018.

The entire program is set to be as efficient as possible and that shows in more than one way. For example, the workspace has been set up brilliantly, something that didn’t go unnoticed. The BMW Startup Garage’s premises at the BMW Group Research and Technology House in Garching, near Munich have earned the coveted Red Dot Award: Product Design 2019 in the interior architecture and interior design category. The BMW Startup Garage features an elevated room-in-room concept with a spacious atrium that doubles as a presentation area, plus additional co-working spaces for brainstorming and a large meeting area. The workspaces are located at different levels within the rooms, enabling employees and visitors to enjoy visual and acoustic privacy in an open-plan space. You can check them out in the photo gallery below.