Corporations are increasingly recognising the value of boosting startups

From underground radar to better cameras for cars, established firms are increasingly benefitting from innovations developed at technology incubators. In turn, established companies are increasingly directly sponsoring or creating such incubators, sparking a growing trend in which innovative, early-stage startups are helped along their journey to successful products by the leading companies in the field.

Just last week Swedish carmaker Volvo launched a new effort to support startups, focusing specifically on the sustainable mobility sector. Volvo is providing early-stage companies with the opportunity to learn from its engineers, to collaborate with like-minded professionals, and to benefit from mentorship and business advice.

Volvo’s incubator track, CampX, sees early-stage startups with promising technologies join collaborations already taking place at Volvo’s campus in Gothenburg, Sweden. Partnering with Volvo gives startups access to potential customers, suppliers and investors, while Volvo helps scale the technology and introduce it to the market. The spaces give startups the opportunity to work with Volvo’s engineers, who provide mentorship and business insights.

CampX is not Volvo’s only initiative of the kind. It has launched incubators in India, France, and the United States. Volvo says the role of the corporate incubator is, essentially, to “open up” its corporate social network, which startups might not otherwise have access to. However, unlike other corporate incubators, which typically seek to invest in the startup, or to receive equity, Volvo does not ask for anything in return.

Since starting the CampX incubator in 2019, Volvo has worked with more than 50 startups delivering cutting-edge motoring technology. Its latest intake is focused on innovations in sustainability, such as autonomous vehicles and electromobility.

The first batch of startups include Radchat, which is working on technology that helps radars get precise positioning in areas such as underground mines, Fyrqom, a company working with automated tire pressure measurement and management, and Autonomous Knight, which has developed a multi-spectral camera enabling better all-weather vision.

Volvo’s initiative fits into a growing pattern in which firms that are established leaders in their particular sector are developing innovative ways to support and grow startups.

Boosting the trust economy

Swiss security giant SICPA, for example, has opened its “Unlimitrust” campus—the world’s first campus focused on innovation in the trust economy, and is also involved in the Tech4Trust startup acceleration programme.

At the Unlimitrust campus, startups get free access to collaborative working spaces, as well as the tools, infrastructure and technical support they need to get their projects off the ground. The campus is host to workshops, networking and community events and participants get on-demand mentoring sessions to help them launch their ideas.

By hosting innovative start-ups, SICPA’s campus seeks to become a hub for what it sees as a crucial element of the interconnected worldwide marketplace going forward: the trust economy – a global economy based on protected, unforgeable and verifiable data.

Unlimitrust brings together startups focused on innovating on trust in key areas: global supply chains will require physical and chemical fingerprints to provide biometric information about a product while digital traceability will record a product’s every movement along the supply chain.

Other areas include health, where big data processing and analytics have made it possible to consider the social and environmental determinants of health, and e-services, where large-scale digitisation means data protection and privacy have become crucial to the functioning of these systems.

Meanwhile, the Tech4Trust startup accelerator, of which SICPA is a partner, is an intense six-month support programme designed to boost startups in the cybersecurity space. The fourth edition of the programme recently selected 26 companies to support, including Synergy Quantum, which provides quantum communication technology developed by CERN scientists, and Agora Care, a digital health company develop a platform for the secure storage and communication of medical images.

Broadening travel horizons

Travel giant Expedia, meanwhile, recently announced the first group of 12 companies which will be part of its Open World Accelerator programme, aimed at improving accessibility for underserved travellers. The company launched the programme to remove barriers to travel and to drive innovation in the industry

The twelve startups seek to expand and promote travel opportunities for communities such as LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and people who have not had the resources to travel previously.

The programme sees startups spending five months attending virtual workshops led by Expedia managers and external partners, and cover business strategy, finance, marketing and product.

Expedia provides startups with a non-equity grant to get their products off the ground. They also get access to Expedia technology, its platform and products, and mentorship support from Expedia employees and outside experts.

Among the chosen startups are Be My Eyes, which connects people needing sighted support with volunteers and companies through live video around the world, and Greether, a travel and safety marketplace that helps women travel safely by connecting female travellers to verified local female guides.

Other startups in the programme include Wheel the World, an online travel agency for travellers with disabilities and seniors, Flywallet, a gamified savings account for travel, and misterb&b, one of the world’s largest online LGBTQ+ travel communities.

Incubators and accelerators are not a new concept, but it’s clear that they are being embraced by leading companies in the field as a way to encourage innovation and bring successful products to market. By helping early-stage companies launch their products, companies such as Volvo, SICPA and Expedia are helping to push their respective industries forward.

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