STARTUP AUTOBAHN: In search of partners for sustainable production

July 10, 2019 - The current startup scouting campaign of Startup Autobahn bears the title "The Next Green Thing." The first event focused on the issue of "Sustainable Vehicles and Materials." The focus of the follow-up event in Sindelfingen in early June was on the issues "Sustainable Production and Supply Chain." The scouting focus thus is on companies whose technologies can help to reduce the ecological footprint in production.

Carbon-free production in Europe by 2022

"Daimler has set itself the objective of making our production in Europe carbon-free by 2022," stresses Florian Kotz, who is responsible at Daimler for the worldwide factory planning and coordination of the green production. For one, this objective means that the CO₂ emissions in production operations are reduced while lowering the energy consumption for another. "At the same time, we take a close look at water consumption in all areas and also plan a largely waste-free operation through consistent waste avoidance, reuse and environmentally friendly recycling processes" Kotz adds. In addition, the goal also is to avoid the usage of solvents, which are mainly used in painting.

Startups as accelerators of the transformation: Akvola Technologies treats industrial wastewater

Startups play an important role on this path in order to speed up innovations. For example, in the treatment of wastewater. Accordingly, water is the element of the Berlin-based startup Akvola Technologies, which was founded six years ago by Matan Beery in order to optimize water quality. The chemical engineer of Israeli origin developed the innovative wastewater treatment while working on his doctoral thesis. Afterwards he founded the company. "We first looked at the desalination of sea water to make it more energy-efficient and over time ended up with other applications," Beery recalls. The result is a purification technology that makes it possible to treat industrial wastewater in a way that is cost-effective and energy-efficient. For example, it allows filtering oil back out from polluted industrial waters. While conventional systems take two to four years to pay for themselves, we already reach that point after just one and a half years," as Beery describes the savings potential. "At the Gaggenau plant, we ran a successful pilot system for the wastewater treatment last year and demonstrated how well our technology works."

akvoFloat plants filter substances from polluted water.

The Danes invented it: Pond develops biosynthetic resins as the basis for high-quality plastics

The journey of the Danish company Pond from the initial idea to the presentation at Startup Autobahn began seven years ago in a basement. That is where engineer Thomas Brorsen Pedersen and chemist Martin Jensen experimented for as long as it took them to find the solution: They found a way to produce biosynthetic resins from organic materials, which are suitable as the basis for high-quality plastics. "After five years, we hit on our substitute for conventional resin made from petroleum," Pedersen recalls. The Dane finds the raw material for his product in nature and in organic waste. "We quite deliberately forsake producing our raw material from foods," Pedersen explains. The primary basis for the biosynthetic resin are starchy products. The synthetic resin produced in this way can be composted easily. "We thereby create a natural cycle," as Pedersen describes his vision for a sustainable production. “However, we need a partner who thinks on a grand scale."

Pond has developed a method to produce organic synthetic resins from carbohydrate-containing raw materials.

BeeBryte: The energy need of a factory is optimized in real time

The startup BeeBryte is also looking for such a partner. BeeBryte uses artificial intelligence to optimize the energy consumption in buildings and factories and thus reduces the ecological footprint of the companies. To this end, the startup founded in Singapore in 2015 uses a cloud-based software and adapts the energy supply to the current need. The two founders, Frédéric Crampé and Patrick Laguillette, initially developed a software for cost-effective energy storage in batteries. Concerning the high costs for batteries, the two founders changed their focus two years later and researched other solutions for optimizing the energy consumption in buildings. BeeBryte analyzes the current weather data, for example, in order to adapt the output of climate control systems accordingly. The patented technology combines "weather data as well as the accurate energy need including costs in order to adapt the consumption accordingly in real time," explains Sales Director Manon Dirand. "This allows us to predict the energy consumption precisely and thereby achieve energy savings of up to 40 percent. The technology is also suited for production facilities," Manon Dirand explains. Two years ago, the startup was awarded a prize by the German Energy Agency (Dena) in the category 'Urban Energy Transition'.

When everything fits, a cooperation is initiated

The three companies are part of the approximately 5,000 startups that have been in contact with the Daimler Startup Autobahn initiative in the past three years. Startup Autobahn looks for the right startup partners for the objectives and strategies of various specialist units at Daimler. Potentially interested powerhouses of ideas are invited to the events. The deep dives give the selected companies the opportunity to present their innovation in 15-minute pitches during several meetings. The technologies are then evaluated by the Daimler experts. This is then followed by a 100-day pilot phase for select projects, which can result in a collaboration with Daimler in the case of a positive evaluation by the specialist unit. More than 150 pilot projects were realized successfully in this way over the past three years.

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