Mercedes-Benz, University of Alabama partner on startup challenge

Mercedes is partnering with the University of Alabama and others in a startup competition open to students and professionals.  

Mercedes-Benz is partnering with several entities, including the University of Alabama, to drive innovation within the state’s college and professional startup community.

The “MBUSI Innovation Challenge” is running through June 19 across two streams of participants – students and professionals, and existing startups – to offer solutions to issues in advanced manufacturing. The winners can earn up to $50,000 and a chance to become a supplier for Mercedes-Benz and its parent company, Daimler.

The program is a partnership of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, economic development non-profit Urban Engine, Stuttgart-based investment and innovation firm Startup Autobahn and the University of Alabama.

MBUSI President and CEO Jason Hoff said the challenge will hopefully attract the “best and brightest students and startups.”

“Innovation is born when you combine a creative solution with the knowledge to execute on it and the necessary data to prove it works,” Hoff said.

Mercedes-Benz is looking for solutions using creative business strategies, software development and technology. Specifically, the challenges include big data analysis of manufacturing operations, digitization of production flow management, app-based solutions for the engagement of employees and others.

Online applications have begun here and an informational webinar will be held in May for those interested. A shortlist will be assembled of candidates from the students, and professional and existing startups can pitch their ideas to a judging panel June 19. But teams will also have a chance to meet one-on-one with experts at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance.

Student challenge participants can win a $5,000 prize, while startups can win $50,000 for incubation support.

Urban Engine Executive Director Toni Eberhart said the partnership allows “incredible opportunities” for innovation.

“The program presents an expedited avenue for technology businesses, startups and students to begin a relationship with Daimler thereby enabling them to launch and grow for mutual benefit,” Eberhart said.

Philipp Gneiting, manager of Startup Autobahn, said the firm can “boost these pioneering ideas to shape the future of mobility and production.”

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