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Volkswagen Financial Services UK aims to accelerate innovation with tech startup programme

Automobile manufacturer Volkswagen is running its next Startup Battlefield programme, building on the success of its 2017 Portuguese accelerator

Volkswagen Financial Services UK (VWFS) is aiming to find innovative motoring technologies by hosting its second Startup Battlefield accelerator.

The manufacturing giant has called for startups to apply by 8 July 2018 with ideas across three categories – mobility tools, value-added car services and customer finance opportunities with fintechs.

A group of finalists will be selected to pitch in front of panellists on 20 July. The eventual winners will receive a cash prize; mentoring from VWFS on how to develop their product; and a stand at the Web Summit, a technology conference held in Lisbon with around 60,000 attendees. 

VWFS’s digital and innovation director, Nathan Thompson, told Computer Weekly it is working with the startups to drive the company forward using the latest innovative services.

He said the accelerator supports the manufacturer’s plan “to digitise the business through the use of innovation, new ideas and outside thinking” and “allows us to innovate faster by accelerating the identification of new trends, tech solutions and revenue models”.

Thompson said this programme comes at a time when the automotive industry is “arguably experiencing the greatest level of change” since the motor car launched.

“New regulations, urbanisation, technology advancement and a shift in customer behaviour is changing the way customers behave towards car ownership,” he said.

He added that a new generation of customers is more focused on using rather than owning vehicles, which has been indicated by the rise in cab services, while technologies such as autonomous vehicles are also set to shake up the industry.

He expects to see ideas from startups around concerns such as e-finance, roadside assistance and car-sharing services.

“We see this competition as a great opportunity for startups to raise their profile with Volkswagen financial services and the wider VW group. In addition, there is the opportunity to build connections with businesses in the mobility sector,” said Thompson.

VWFS’s Portuguese arm began the programme in 2017, in which 15 finalists reached pitching day. The startups covered mobility services, but also products for urban goods movement.

The final winners were Parkbob, an app which shows available parking spaces; Hypelabs, a platform which connects multiple devices on a network without internet access; Add Volt, a portable electrical system for transportation businesses; and MubCargo, a shipping and delivery service.

Thompson said this kind of collaboration with large enterprise gives startups a “great platform for raising their profile to future customers and potential investors”.

He added that small companies offer “the agility, toolkit and mindset to deliver fast-paced results, while corporates provide capital, customers, industry expertise and scale”. When combining the benefits of both sides, the businesses are in a strong position to be successful in the market, he said.

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