Digital Innovation Labs
Space for creative minds and new ideas
German companies are hard at work on the digital future at over 100 innovation labs in Germany. The business magazine Capital published its second best-of lists in three categories in 2018. DB is on the list – more than once. Skydeck, amspire and d.lab were among the top 24 in the best innovation labs category. DB mindbox came in third in the best accelerators category, and DB Intrapreneurs topped the list in the best company builders category. Nearly 60 teams in all were surveyed. They were judged on a scale from one (little achievement) to five (optimal).
Despite the labs' stereotypical foosball tables and bean bag chairs and a lot of freedom to try things out, delivering results is ultimately what matters. That was the conclusion of the Capital study as well. The best-of list includes almost exclusively teams that have launched specific products or specific products they are working on solutions for in collaboration with startups.
Skydeck, DB Systel's innovation lab, looks for and supports innovative business-wide IT solutions. Skydeck is where the IT knowledge of DB Systel employees, the expertise of DB employees from various business units, research and scientific results, and startup working and creativity methods come together.
The Skydeck Accelerator, the main program for employees, helps employees implement their IT innovations for DB's core business. The goal is to enable people with ideas to create a prototype and develop a business model within ten weeks. The team behind EVE (Engaging Virtual Education), a virtual reality environment for employee training, is one of the teams to take their first steps through the Skydeck Accelerator program.
Skydeck came in at number 12 in the Capital ranking, with a total score of 3.5 points.
amspire - "Asset & Maintenance Digital Lab"
"Google meets freight rail" was the title of an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about a project from the Asset & Maintenance Digital Lab, or "amspire" for short. The article was about smart freight cars. DB Cargo already has over 1,000 of them. The amspire team is advancing plans to equip locomotives and freight cars with state-of-the-art sensors and telematics through its TechLOK and Wagon Intelligence projects. Sensors make condition data available at all times, enabling detailed diagnostics of the condition of vehicles and components. In the future, this data will be used for flexible, condition-based maintenance, whose ultimate objective is to increase availability and quality and reduce cost.
The team is working on automating and digitalizing vehicles and maintenance. Its current focus is on rail freight transport. The lab earned 3.2 points in the Capital ranking.
Public viewing options during the World Cup are everywhere. So why not on the train? That may very well be possible in the future. DB Regio's Ideas Train is a perfect example of what public viewing on the train might look like. The DB Mobility Lab, known as d.lab, was involved in its development. d.lab is DB's innovation lab for passenger transport and is located in Frankfurt's Bahnhofsviertel district, near the train station. Everything at d.lab is about passengers, what they want and what they need. The primary method used is rapid prototyping, which takes customer wishes, ideas and concepts and develops them into tangible prototypes quickly. Prototypes are then tested with real customers and improved based on the feedback received. d.lab earned an overall score of 3.1 points in the Capital ranking.
According to the Capital study, more than one-fourth of all innovation labs and accelerators are located in Berlin, especially when collaboration with startups is involved. DB mindbox opened its doors under the arches of Berlin's Jannowitzbrücke station back in 2015 and has since become more than a mainstay of the startup scene. Young entrepreneurs participating in the 100-day DB StartupXpress development program attend workshops, receive mentoring, and are given workstations at DB mindbox and EUR 25,000 seed money. The goal is to develop DB's core business by adding new unconventional approaches to improving quality and service. One example is Germany's first light-emitting platform, which is currently guiding commuters on a platform at Stuttgart's Bad Cannstatt station. It was developed by the startup SIUT.