Two great collaboration stories that show how the municipality has been working towards innovation together with startups matched through Ignite Public.
Uppsala Municipality has been a member of Ignite since 2019. During the last two years, they have been matched with over 70 small, innovative companies and initiated many pilot collaborations with startups such as Parlametric, Nagoon and Bumbee Labs.
In this article you will read about two fantastic collaboration stories where startups have helped both the municipality’s cultural department and Destination Uppsala innovate despite the current pandemic times.
Gamifying Pelle Svanlös’ hometown
Destination Uppsala had a specific challenge in mind when they met 6 startups through an Ignite Matchday last October: to find innovative solutions that could help them gamify the way locals and visitors explore the city.
“We wanted to create experiences around Pelle Svanslös (known in English as Peter-No-Tail) in his own hometown. Uppsala needs to create more experiences to complement the ones we already have. There are many spots connected to Pelle around the city and we wanted to create cool experiences there,” says Helena Bovin, Marketing Director at Destination Uppsala.
“The fact that Destination Uppsala entered Ignite with a real and prioritized challenge made our work of scouting and preparing startups much easier. Of the 1500 startups we have in our database, we were able to present eight from all over the country. Among them was a startup from Umeå that turned out to deliver exactly what Destination Uppsala was looking for,” says Marit Finch Westin, Business Developer at Ignite.
This Umeå startup is Exenze Active, which develops engaging experiences using augmented reality, geolocation and IoT. The startup developed a game in collaboration with Thnx Innovation, Morningdew Media, Bidnerdonethat och Josefine Egerzegy, that was released on June 5. Visitors can play the game on their own mobiles at Carolinaparken and Stadsträdgården in Uppsala.
“To be able to meet Destination Uppsala through Ignite was a turning point for us at Exenze Active. This project has helped us strengthen our product, our service capacity and our processes. We can now deliver at the level of capacity that municipalities and large companies demand. This project has generated many new opportunities for our company and now we see a bright future ahead,” says Richard Lindberg, CEO at Exenze Active.
Click here to read the original article (in Swedish)
Creative Citizen Dialog
Uppsala Municipality is working on two projects for 2029: the application to become the European Capital of Culture and a housing exposition that will take place the same year.
“The projects have different goals and target groups, but they are mainly related to the same topics. The Capital of Culture will explore how the city has changed, for good and bad, with its growth. The housing exposition will show the innovative work that has been done while developing the municipality in a sustainable way,” says Patric Kiraly, project manager and responsible for Uppsala’s application to become European Capital of Culture 2029.
In order to develop the concept that will be part of the application, it is necessary a large process for co-creation between the municipality and various partners – including academia, private companies, public institutions and citizens.
“Culture is an important part of a people’s life. It shapes who you are and who you want to be. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand the residents’ view of themselves in relation to the cultural environment they are in, especially since Uppsala municipality intends to interpret what the city is and what it wants to be in our application,” he adds.
During the ongoing pandemic, it has been difficult to get a comprehensive picture that captures both the local spirit of the times and at the same time condenses the residents’ vision and image of the future of the city. That is when Ignite comes into play to help the municipality’s culture department solve this challenge by matching them with innovative startups.
“This challenge requires new ways of thinking and an innovative approach,” says Johanna Wiklander, Strategic Community Planner at Uppsala Municipality.
The challenge is to develop new and creative ways to dialogue with its citizens, companies and other key actors. The ideas that are collected will contribute to both the application to become the capital of culture and as inspiration for the design of housing exhibition.
“I’d like to develop a digital co-creative dialogue method where the ideas from key actors such as stakeholders and companies are compiled together with the ones from inside the municipality,” says Patric.
The goal of this work in collaboration with Innovationslabbet is to publish a first report in August 2021 based on the results collected with the help of a new effective solution.
“We’d also like to explore if this type of co-creative process strengthens participation in the development of our municipality,” he concludes.
Click here to read the original article (in Swedish)
Using one successful collaboration to build the next was a smart strategy for Spotscale when they developed ground breaking technology with FLIR and then supplied it to Coor’s extensive market. Their collective success highlights what can happen when you combine global leaders in hardware, innovative new software and great market knowledge.
Building damage can be difficult to spot early and difficult to fix later so Spotscale worked towards a 3D imaging technology. They then joined forces with thermal camera manufacturer FLIR to create an innovative new product that added thermal imaging to their 3D. This thermal technology added immense value by letting building owners see issues such as heat leakage, early water damage while the traditional imaging allowed cracks and other structural issues to be seen without a physical inspection.
“By using FLIR’s cameras we could get much richer imagery, meaning thermal imagery. When we used their new cameras and worked together with their engineers, we could get a much more interesting solution with the heat leakage,” says Ludvig Emgård, CEO at Spotscale.
As FLIR is a world leading thermal camera manufacturer with a large portion of the global market share, it was a ‘no brainer’ for Spotscale to meet with them to discuss possible collaboration. But the innovation needed to find a suitable market. For this, Coor was also an obvious choice because of their extensive market network and knowledge.
A Winning Combination of Hardware, Software and Market Expertise
Spotscale began their journey just as drone technology was becoming more accessible in early 2013. They focused on transforming the real estate industry by providing high resolution three dimensional imaging of their buildings. However, at this time, 3D imaging and VR technology were practically unheard of in the real estate industry and Spotscale spent much of the next seven years educating others and developing their solution to include infrared thermal imaging. It was this new infrared thermal imaging that drove their collaborations with world leading thermal camera manufacturer FLIR and later, leading provider of facility management services in the Nordics, Coor.
While the companies didn’t all work directly with one another, one collaboration did enable the next. While FLIR and Spotscale’s collaboration focused on developing the product and a technical solution, Coor was a success at the customer and reseller level, through their joint customer journey and product validation in the right market.
First Spotscale worked together with FLIR on the highly technical thermal imaging product. This is something that has never been done before and it wouldn’t have been possible without the two companies coming together.
“It opened a new niche for Spotscale to bring their very capable solution into a new, world-first application. We were able to provide them with knowledge, equipment, some exposure and credibility in the thermal imaging domain,” says Katrin Strandemar, VP of Platforms & Innovation at FLIR.
“The product we put together, we could only do it because we could loan the cameras from FLIR. But it wouldn’t have been possible if our engineers at Spotscale didn’t also coordinate. They had to collaborate on the very deep bits and bites level on thermal imagery because it’s quite complex,” says Ludvig.
Once they had the product, it needed a market. This can be a challenging prospect for many startups who often don’t have the direct access needed to understand the exact needs of their market. Luckily Coor was already on Spotscale’s radar as a potential option because of their extensive contacts within the right market. Both Ludvig and Tomas Hultgren, Group Innovation and Solution Manager had similar ideas about what Coor would bring to the table.
“It doesn’t matter how good your product is if you don’t have the right market for it. Even if you have a great product and feel it really should fit a market, it’s not proven until you get recurring revenue from that market,” says Ludvig.
Tomas agrees saying that “from the moment we started to work on an official partnership, I started to work on how we could ‘Coorify’ their solution. My plan is that Spotscale’s solution is going to be a vital and fundamental part in our larger strategy.”
It’s also a matter of developing trust between customers and due to their long-term relations with their customers, Coor could open doors that may have otherwise been difficult for Spotscale to access.
“One challenge for startups is to establish trust both internally within the organization they’re working with but also on the customer side. This is the benefit of working with Coor because if we approach the end user with the startup’s solution, there is existing trust based on our long term relationship with the customer,” says Tomas.
Finding A Champion
Spotscale initially met FLIR and Coor through separate Ignite matchmaking events in Linköping in 2017, but despite some positive reactions and follow up meetings, it wasn’t until they connected to internal champions within the larger companies that things really started to develop.
“You really need a champion who is ready to put their reputation and role at risk because large companies are risk averse. If you do nothing, there are no negative consequences. If you take the risk to do something new, then you are also accountable if it goes wrong in some way,” says Ludvig.
The riskiness of beginning collaborations with innovative technology can make finding the right people difficult, but Ignite can help introduce companies to people who know who to reach out to. That’s what happened in Spotscale’s case with Coor. Through contacts, Ludvig was introduced to Tomas who became Spotscale’s champion at Coor in August 2019.
“Sometimes these innovation representatives at Ignite are spiders in the web, they are connected to a lot of people in the company. It’s always a people game. You have to find the right person with the right chemistry and they have to believe in you and your company for anything to happen. You need the right champion who has the guts, the internal charisma and the internal position to make the case and bring the budget. For us, that happened with two companies, FLIR and Coor,” says Ludvig.
According to Thomas it was also a matter of timing and product development that helped peak his interest in collaborating with Spotscale. When the companies first met, Coor didn’t have the business arena and Spotscale’s solution was not developed to a level that was interesting to Coor at that time. It was when they reached out again in 2019 that Tomas was introduced to the company.
“I saw potential both in Spotscale as a company and the competence within, but also very much with the actual solution they had developed and were pushing for,” says Tomas.
FLIR also saw clear potential advantages of working with startups to create new technical solutions.
“Working with startups is a great way to become a leading edge company because it allows you to focus on your core competences, while exploring new technologies and opportunities. This can also be a great way to enter smaller niches that are hard for us to develop custom solutions for on our own. We can learn and experiment in a cost effective way,” says Katrin.
Understanding Needs and Finding the Right Fit
Once Coor saw the technology that Spotscale had developed with FLIR, they saw how it could benefit their customers but needed to go through an extensive process to ensure that the collaboration would work on a legal and financial level. But according to Tomas, it wasn’t something they realised they needed until it was presented to them.
“In some cases, like with Spotscale, you suddenly see this type of solution and you realise that despite doing something the traditional way for 20-30 years, we now have the technology to do it in a much more efficient, safer and cost efficient way. That’s when you see a need for it.”
For Spotscale working with these two companies was something they envisioned long before they actually began collaborating.
“We have been attracted to them for a long time, so it was fairly easy to say to FLIR that we thought we could build a kick-ass thermal product together, that would be the best in the world with them, so that was an easy sell. It was similar with Coor, we have great technology, and they don’t have anything like it but they have a great sales network. It just made sense on so many levels, so for us they were the ‘easy’ ones,” says Ludvig.
Though working together was a mostly positive experience, pace is often brought up as one of the biggest challenges when moving from the initial meetings to an actual partnership. These collaborations were no different but both companies say that patience and flexibility were essential to making it work.
“Large corporates tend to have more bureaucracy compared to startups, however these processes do bring value because it is a sustainable way of working, but you need to find the flexibility to move at a faster pace. You need to be creative to see which processes you can skip and how you can reach the same results without always following the traditional way of working,” says Tomas.
The legal aspects were a key example of these types of pace issues because new technology often doesn’t fit cleanly into existing frameworks and it takes time to find the right fit.
“The legal frameworks we are traditionally working from are more or less based on selling a product or selling a service. The solution from Spotscale, and many of today’s new solutions, are based on hardware in combination with knowledge, in combination with services and to apply that from a legal standpoint is a big challenge,” says Tomas.
Despite these challenges, both Ludvig and Tomas see great potential working together and an opportunity for both sides to generate a lot of value.
A Long Term Vision For Success
All three companies have formed positive partnerships and have a long-term vision to develop further in the future.
“We worked intensively with Spotscale for a little over a year. We have since continued to work together in different ways. Spotscale is still in our Thermal by FLIR program and we help them out whenever we can,” says Katrin.
“We are not looking at just creating one limited pilot with a startup company, we are looking at integrating the solutions into the offerings we have and based on the company needs to be sustainable enough to get through good and bad times,” says Tomas.
Ludvig also notes that it is important for the collaborations to not only create value for their customers, but also encourage more sustainable development focused on repairing buildings rather than just replacing them.
“Our objective is to implement our technology as widely as possible. Maybe we don’t need to tear down so many buildings, we can preserve them longer, because we need buildings to live and work in. We can still build new buildings but we can refurbish the old ones as well.”
“With the technology from Spotscale, real estate owners can meet society’s demands on important issues like climate. It’s not only saving them money but it gives them the chance to contribute to a better world,” says Ludvig.
United Nations’ Sustainable Development (SDGs) addressed by the collaboration project
LocalLife is this year’s Kommersialisingspriset (Commercialization Prize) winner. Together with E.ON, Järfälla Municipality and Barkarby Science, they will initiate a project that will help create more sustainable heating and help residents sort their waste more effectively.
The annual prize is initiated by Ignite Sweden and awarded as a part of Power Circle Summit, powered by Energimyndigheten, EIT InnoEnergy and Svenska Mässan. It consists of a commercial project with an Ignite Corporate Member, this year, E.ON. For the first time the project will also involve a public sector organization, Järfälla Municipality.
This winning project will begin at Barkarby Science testbed in Barkarbystaden in Järfälla Municipality. LocalLife will work with E.ON to reduce the amount of plastic going into the incineration plant that converts the city’s waste into electricity and heat by encouraging tenants in two residential buildings to reduce the amount of plastic they put in general waste.
Currently, E.ON has no direct contact with household residents and Järfälla Municipality lacks the specific tools needed to promote behavioural change. Stockholm based startup, LocalLife will provide the missing link with a digital platform that encourages residents to recycle more. It will also highlight the benefits of cleaner energy production when there is less plastic being burned as general waste.
“The goal is to further develop the platform and increase our understanding of the value it provides. We want to find ways to collaborate together with the municipality, property owners, energy companies to increase the sorting of plastic,”says Patrik Nyström, CEO and Co-founder of LocalLife.
Aiming for Long-Term Sustainability
Using waste created by the city’s residents to generate energy creates a more circular, resource efficient system, however plastic is an ongoing challenge due to the significant carbon emissions it produces during the process. Lessening this impact is a key part of both E.ON and Järfälla Municipality’s long-term sustainability goals.
“Järfälla Municipality faces major sustainability challenges. I believe that innovation and digitalisation are two key factors for achieving these sustainability goals,”says Jenny Ångman, Head of Innovation at Järfälla Municipality.
“Our goal is that by 2025 all the energy we produce or distribute will be 100% renewable and recycled, so we need to be a driving force for sustainable energy transition in the cities. We want to reduce carbon emissions through scalable business solutions and spread examples of how to speed up this transition. Our customers need help to switch to sustainable solutions and I see collaboration with startups and other actors as essential if we are going to achieve our sustainability goals,”says Rebecka Höjner, Project Manager for Sustainable City Development at E.ON.
The project addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 7 (Affordable & Clean Energy) 11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities) and 12 (Responsible Consumption & Production). It aims to increase environmental sustainability within the region and generate greater awareness of the impact individuals can have on clean energy.
“What is good about the project is that it connects E.ON, LocalLife, Barkarbystaden real estate actors and the municipality to collectively implement sustainable recycling. This results in reduced emissions. Currently 28% of what goes wrong is packaging and a significant part of it is plastic, so it is important to address this issue,”says Stina Behrens, Business Developer at Barkarby Science.
“LocalLife’s solution is a great example of how innovation can contribute to solving a comprehensive problem in a circular way where many key players are involved, from energy companies to property owners, municipalities and end consumers. If we want Sweden to continue leading the energy transition, it is crucial that we accelerate the commercialization of these innovations by enabling collaborative projects like this one,”says Andreas Stubelius, Senior Portfolio Manager at Energimyndigheten – the Swedish Energy Agency.
Kommersialisingpriset’s Impact on Sustainable Collaboration
LocalLife met both E.ON and Järfälla through Ignite Sweden, a non-profit program that connects startups with potential corporate and public sector customers. Ignite was also in charge of selecting this winning project.
“The prize is a fantastic example of how the private and public sectors can drive change for a more sustainable lifestyle, and how startups can be an accelerator in this transition. It shows that the work we do with public actors at Ignite is important to drive sustainable development, and create good business opportunities,”says Karin Bengtsson, COO at Kista Science City, one of the initiators of Ignite Public, that matches public sector organizations with startups.
For LocalLife the award is a great confirmation that their solution is interesting to commercial players and can have a positive impact on sustainable urban development.
“This prize is a fantastic opportunity for us to develop together with our partners and prepare a joint plan for further implementation. Finding workable solutions for recycling is a complex process with many actors involved and I think this prize is really for everyone who will be involved in the pilot!”says Patrik Nyström.
This is the third edition of the Kommersialiseringspriset. The two previous winners were Mimbly in 2019 with Coor Service Management and Univrses in 2020 for their project with ABB. Both of these projects have completed their initial pilots and continued to develop their collaborations further.
Facts about the Kommersialiseringspriset
– The prize is awarded annually and began in 2019 as part of the conference Power Circle Summit.
– The prize was initiated by Ignite Sweden with the support of Energimyndigheten, EIT InnoEnergy and Svenska Mässan.
– The award aims to emphasize the importance of commercial collaboration between established companies and young innovative startups.
– This year’s award went to the Stockholm-based startup Locallife for its project with E.ON and Järfälla Municipality
– The winners of the previous editions were Mimbly (2019) and Univrses (2020)
About Ignite Sweden
Ignite Sweden is a non-profit national program that aims to initiate collaborations between startups and established companies. Since it began in 2017, Ignite has facilitated 3725 curated matchmaking meetings between 671 startups and 219 corporations and public sector organizations, resulting in 230+ paid commercial collaborations.
Ignite Sweden is led by Kista Science City, LEAD, MINC, THINGS, Sahlgrenska Science Park, STING and Uminova. The initiative is coordinated by SISP – Swedish Incubators & Science Parks, and co-funded by Vinnova – Sweden’s innovation agency and Energimyndigheten – the Swedish Energy Agency.
Ignite Public is a program within Ignite Sweden funded by Vinnova that matches public sector organizations with innovative startups. These collaborations can help address the societal, economic and environmental challenges currently faced by the public sector with solutions from startups.
Järfälla Municipality wanted to gain more insight into what is important for their community, particularly in areas that faced social and economic challenges. With Parlametric they found a more effective way that introduced them to new technologies and a more digital way of thinking.
Providing narrative analysis using innovative machine learning methods, Parlametric sees the public sector as an ideal customer because municipalities see the inherent value in listening to their citizens. Their work together with Järfälla Municipality allowed over 200 local residents to give their opinions on the municipality and community safety in a more digital way.
“We have to digitize different processes to make it easier for people to participate but we also have to remember not all people can use digital means for dialogue. This is a key issue, but in the long run I hope we can find more ways of working with digital and especially AI,” says Democracy Developer at Järfälla Kommun, Jessika Karreskog.
The collaboration was a positive learning curve and particularly opened up Järfälla’s knowledge of startup companies capabilities and the potential digital solutions they can provide for the public sector. Parlametric were also happy to help the municipality along their road to digitalisation but emphasised the need for continued dialogue.
“It’s important to keep doing continuous analysis and measures. It’s best to do it often so that you are in essence having a dialogue with your citizens and getting to know them; what they want, need and desire,” says Thomas Strandberg, CEO and analyst, Parlametric.
Discovering New Partners and Technologies Through Ignite
Noticing that there wasn’t a non overly technological solution for capturing important insights from communities, Parlametric began in 2017 to create something that was easy for the end user but utilizes complex machine learning to convert a range of information into usable insights.
“We wanted to have a more holistic solution for this, which would make a very non-techy person be able to do really state of the art, impressive and meaningful things,” says Johan Källstrand, co-founder and analyst at Parlametric.
These insights could prove integral to help municipalities better understand what their citizens want, however Johan said it is nearly impossible to connect with the big cities. This is where Ignite can play an important role and introduce them to clients they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
“That is the main reason for investing a lot of time in Ignite. We can see that it has delivered. It takes a lot of time and we have been at many events but there has been a very positive outcome,” says Johan.
On the other hand municipalities like Järfälla are often unaware of what startups and smaller companies can bring to the table. Democracy Developer at Järfälla Kommun, Jessika Karreskog said she often does public tenders but didn’t have the information about smaller companies’ ways of working with AI and technology.
“I wouldn’t have been in touch with them (startups like Parlametric), but now I know several that I could contact if we do a new public tender. I didn’t know this existed and I didn’t know about that kind of technology or what it could do. Maybe I would have found Parlametric (without Ignite) but not in the same way and not as quickly.”
It was through Ignite’s Smart Cities matchmaking event in Kista in 2019 that Järfälla and Parlametric first met and were able to begin a collaboration focused on getting insights from community members that are often not able to have their voices heard.
Addressing Inequalities and a New Digital Approach to Community Engagement
Jessika’s department at Järfälla Municipality focuses primarily on dialogue within the community, children’s rights and national minorities. They brought a number of challenges to discuss with Ignite but their first matchmaking sessions helped them identify a key goal of improving the ways they could reach out to the community. Any solution they chose had to fit into existing structures of the organisation including democracy plans that Jessika’s department has to work from, the desire for innovation internally and what was beneficial to the community.
“It was really interesting to hear about the startups’ approaches and having them present their solutions and technology. I had a positive reaction and felt that there were good meetings but I was struggling for a long while in how I could use it. You need to be open minded,” explains Jessika.
The democracy ambassador program involves citizens in Järfälla who are employed to interview or inform other citizens in Järfälla about current processes in the municipality. They ask about people’s opinions and listen to those voices the municipality don’t usually hear. Jessika saw the introduction to Parlametric as an opportunity to change the way the ambassadors were working.
“As a municipality, we know that the strong voices, the ones with the social and political capital, can make their voices heard but others groups have a harder time to make their voices heard.”
“Previously we have just sent the ambassadors out to talk to people and they have written on paper what they found for answers. Then the person (within Järfälla) transcribed the answers and did the report. This was a way for us to maybe to digitalise the process a little more when our democracy ambassadors go out and talk with people in town,” says Jessika.
Parlametric had a solution that would help digitalise the process and allow the ambassadors and municipality to get better insights into what community members were saying.
“It’s about understanding all the citizens in a city, not by using these survey tools with 1-5 how happy are you living in the city. You want to do exactly the opposite, you want to ask one question and just talk about your city, anything that’s good or bad. Let the stories define them,” explains Johan.
Learning to Work with Digitally and Challenges of Long Term Budgets
The process from there was fairly straightforward according to both Järfälla and Parlametric. It was important to both parties that the solution was adapted to suit their specific needs and train the eight ambassadors to do the interviews.
“They wanted to listen to their citizens and they knew we could do it but then we had to design and decide jointly how. In the Järfalla case, we built a tool for them and then they wanted to collect the data themselves, so we just provided the tool for them to do that and when they had collected the data we did the analysis, so it was pretty straight forward,” says Thomas.
As is often the case, there was a slight culture clash in terms of paces of the organisations. This is common as startups are generally fast-paced and can pivot plans quickly while Jessika notes that public sector budgets are often set well in advance.
“We started the budget process for 2021 in Spring 2020. So if we don’t keep any budget open, it’s hard for us to do anything until one or two years later”, says Jessika.
Changing this dynamic requires a larger cultural shift and support from the leadership according to Jessika.
“I think we as a municipality need to prepare more for these kinds of processes. We often know when exactly we go to public tender and what we need. But we often don’t know what there is out there, so that process with Ignite was really interesting but it can be hard with the limitations I have from how we work in the government and public sectors.
“If we had a decision from politicians and boards that they want to do this and they want to invest and try new innovations, we would have an easier time to engage in specific things that we thought could be good in the future.”
Although Järfälla is aiming to become more digital, it was challenging to get the ambassadors to completely adapt to the new technology so quickly as it was a completely new way of working.
“It was a new way for them to work as they had to write in the answers directly into a tablet but I noticed that a lot of them chose to write it down on paper and later that night transcribe it later at night into the computer,” says Jessika.
This also meant that the answers were not quite as in depth as Jessika had hoped. These challenges allowed her to consider how she would adapt future collaborations.
“Next time I would do it with clearer, longer interviews with fewer and more professional interviewers to use this text analysis better. I think we didn’t get the full result with the method we used this time but we did get a good report and a good collaboration.“
The Value of Listening. Looking Forward to Future Collaborations
Despite the challenges, both organizations thought it was a successful project that gave them some extra experience and learnings to take into future collaborations.
Parlametric finds it beneficial to work with the public sector as they often see the value of the types of insights Parlametric can provide.
“I think in particular the municipalities are extremely interested in listening to and knowing what their citizens have to say. We can show them that we can actually do that (through our previous projects) and it’s really simple. Then it’s just a case of concretizing what we should do,” says Thomas.
Järfälla was also pleased with the results as their report gave them some good insights into how the community was feeling.
“We got a really good result in the report. We had approximately 200 people in our areas with social or economic challenges talk about their feelings on security and how they see our dialogue, and we get an idea that they feel like they can participate in the same way,” says Jessika.
Järfälla is now implementing the information from this report into their new detailed development plans and work with security.
“It has also led to an initiative where we are starting local dialogue groups for citizens in these areas. From the beginning, a main point from the participants has been their desire to meet physically in their own neighbourhood, but this has unfortunately not been possible since Spring 2020. But we are about to go digital and we are continuously talking to people about how they want to communicate with their municipality,” says Jessika.
Thomas was happy to hear about the follow up initiatives as it highlighted how this type of analysis can be put into action.
“It is an extremely important part as data and insights must lead to action, decision and changes to be truly meaningful.”
This positive experience has made Jessika positive about future collaborations with startups throughout Järfälla municipality.
“I’ve got a better knowledge now of this kind of technology from different kinds of survey companies that aren’t so traditional and I got new information about how AI can assist dialogue in the future. I can tell my colleagues about the new ways we can use the technology,” says Jessika.
United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The collaboration works towards United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals 10 and 11 (Reduced Inequalities and Sustainable Cities and Communities).
When ABB needed to add perception to their autonomous mining robots, they turned to Univrses, a startup they had met at one of Ignite Sweden’s popular startup and corporate matchmaking events. Together they developed a product that could transform the mining industry.
With some of the most advanced robotics operating in industrial environments in the world, ABB needed to make sure its robots could not only operate precisely and safely but also autonomously in a mining environment. In order to achieve this result, the industrial automation leader needed to add perception to its robots so that they would not only understand which actions to take but which position they had in relation to the mining environment and the actions to be taken. The challenge was to find the right technology and the right partner to add autonomy to the robots.
Ignite Sweden matched ABB with Univrses, a pioneering startup in the field of 3D computer vision and machine learning technology, and both companies soon embarked on their first collaboration project. Following this initial successful project, Univrses were introduced to ABB’s mining department and started a second project, working hand-in-hand with ABB to integrate Univrses’ vision and machine-learning technology in ABB’s mining robots in order to increase their perception capabilities and make them autonomous.
“ABB had the robot expertise, and they did know which actions to perform. But the robot lacked the information about the positioning, i.e. where the mine was relative to itself to be able to go and do the actions it needed to. We were able to tell them (ABB) which sensors to put on the robot and then process the data from those sensors so you could tell what was around the robot and then it would know how to function in the mine,” said Jonathan Selbie, CEO at Univrses.
“It was a very quick move and it was exactly what we wanted. We had the same thoughts about what we wanted to do and even though Univrses had not really been working with anything related to mining before, we are now using their technology in a completely new area,” said Roger Agren, project manager, Mining within Process Automation at ABB.
Timing, a Commitment to Collaboration, and a Touch of Serendipity
ABB and Univrses first met during a startup-corporate matchmaking event organized by Ignite Sweden in Linköping in late 2018. Getting a foot in the right door was a good start. But it takes both grit and patience for a startup, and open-mindedness and a champion willing to stick their neck out for a corporate, to go from successful matchmaking to successful collaboration. There are potentially big rewards for both parties in terms of product development, innovation, business scaling, once challenges on the way have been overcome. Corporates must, for instance, learn to adapt to a faster, more agile way of working, while complying with established and sometimes cumbersome processes. Startups must for their part learn to pace themselves, adopt or develop processes, and secure widespread buy-in within the larger organization. ABB founded SynerLeap, a corporate startup accelerator, in 2016 to facilitate these types of collaborations, and became a close partner to Ignite, which was established about the same time.
“We met ABB through Ignite, then became part of the SynerLeap program, their accelerator, where there are lots of startups. The purpose is to introduce startups to the wider ABB, so there are always events going on. We initially met the corporate research department, which had a particular challenge. We did an initial project there and then, through that work, we met another part of ABB focused on mining,” said Jonathan Selbie, CEO at Univrses in Stockholm.
Besides some level of serendipity, making sure you meet the right people, understand the right needs, and come across the right requirements, are all decisive factors. Timing was crucial in Univrses’ second project within ABB. The company’s mining automation team was facing a challenge with their vision technology, for which Univrses had a potentially perfect technological solution.
“ABB had already embarked on a project with a particular client of theirs. So they already had a particular view of what was going to happen, but they reached a point when they had a particular challenge they could not solve. And through SynerLeap, they met us, and thought maybe we could help them with that,” said Jonathan Selbie.
Success is also a question of correctly identifying a match early between a specific need and a technological solution. Roger Agren explains that Martin Olausson made that connection after listening both to Roger’s teams’ solution needs and getting familiar with Univrses’ technology and team.
“Martin could already see this perfect match in the beginning while it was too early for us to see it […] It is kind of a chain of people who make this happen. You need to have people who are open-minded to working with startups and, in this case, startup and new technology,” said Roger Agren.
After an initial meeting followed by a more in-depth meeting, Univrses submitted a proposal addressing ABB’s needs, to which ABB responded: “Let’s go for it,” said Jonathan Selbie.
Orchestrating Collaboration Through SynerLeap at ABB
Through its startup incubator and accelerator SynerLeap in Västerås, ABB does not only scout interesting startups eager to work with a large, technically savvy corporation, it also scouts internal champions willing to work with startups. And the strategy has paid off, Martin Olausson, Head of Business Development at SynerLeap, explained. SynerLeap has to date facilitated 125 successful collaborations in 16 countries, and has now 95 members in 17 different countries. Powered by ABB, SynerLeap is also financed by the province of Västmanland and Sweden’s Innovation Agency Vinnova, and aims therefore to benefit more than ABB itself, he added: “Our mission is “What’s in it for all of us?” We want Sweden to accelerate, not only ABB,” he said.
Joining SynerLeap also means entering a framework agreement with ABB. This is beneficial for the company and for enrolled startups, as it allows SynerLeap to accelerate internal innovation cycles by making it easier for startups to work with various business units. Startups being endorsed for collaboration at the highest level makes the decision-making at business unit level much faster. Corporate and startup cultures are also quite different, and a key aspect of Martin Olausson’s job at SynerLeap is to help them navigate corporate organization and culture.
“Whenever we onboard a startup, we teach them about the ABB organization and large corporate culture, as it is quite different to the startups. We try to help them navigate them through the organization in order to meet the right people, to look at the right products, to enter the right domain, and even meet the right end-customers. It means if we get a startup on board that is really eager, then that is much easier for us. If they are not eager, then we can’t really help them,” said Martin Olausson.
In this case, Univrses was awarded financing for a USD 30,000 project by a global jury from ABB management. The project result, a computer vision system for a robotics mobile platform, impressed ABB, and is now used at a hospital installation in Houston.
Martin Olausson then introduced Univrses to Roger Agren, who works with Process Automation in the ABB Mining domain. When Univrses also exceeded expectations in that delivery, Roger then became an strong promoter of Univrses – as an internal ABB champion.
“We build trust with the startup and Univrses is a perfect example: we love Jonathan, we love the team, they are trustworthy, they believe in us, they trust us, no-one tries to cheat each other so, why shouldn’t we work with them in other areas as well?” stated Martin Olausson.
An internal champion can also help alleviate misconceptions about working with a startup that can exist within a large corporate.
“I often get questions from within ABB and even other companies about working with a startup. There are often concerns about things like hourly rates or a fear that a startup cannot deliver a product to the same standard but this was not a problem in this project. Univrses delivered on their promises in terms of technology, application and delivery time,” said Roger Agren.
Univrses agrees that they were most successful when they met an internal champion, someone who thought that their idea was compelling, and that the technology was exciting.
“And really that is the goal; to find that champion. Because we cannot do this from the outside, we need to find someone on the inside who can then work with us, said Univrses,” states Jonathan Selbie.
A New Autonomous Mining Robot
ABB’s goal with the collaboration was to develop a new updated product to use robotics in mining, while Univrses wanted to continue to build up its track-record with a first-class company. They united to get the result they both aimed for with their pilot project: taking the proof of concept (POC) to its next step of productization. The collaboration as a whole, and pilot project in particular, enabled both companies to achieve their respective goals as ABB is now preparing to commercialize its first autonomous mining robot using Univrses vision technology. While Univrses has already worked on four different product development projects with ABB and has been able to integrate its technology at scale. It is also a further step for Univrses to scale through an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) component approach.
Partnering on Product Development for the Long-haul
To the question “Did the collaboration and pilot meet your expectations”, both companies answer unequivocally “yes!” And both intend to continue working on the ongoing autonomous mining robot product development and new projects together, as well as with other partners within the Ignite Sweden program.
The collaboration’s goal of bringing a fully functional autonomous robot to the market, has soon reached fruition as mining operator Boliden, one of ABB’s major customers in mining, will soon start testing the product.
“They would like to buy equipment from ABB to help them run their mine and in providing that machinery to their customer, ABB would then buy a component from us. We are like an OEM supplier to one of ABB’s clients,” said Jonathan Selbie.
“Without SynerLeap, we could not have been able to solve this, not in this timeframe at least, and that was the big benefit for me as a project manager just taking away my concerns around this project,” said Roger Agren, and added: “It was a perfect match. I got the technology I wanted, and it was easily obtained within the project. Going from initial discussions in November 2018 and having a good outcome half a year later, with quite advanced technology, that is very quick I would say.
“Now what they delivered gave us a good platform for future development and at the end of 2020 we introduced a new camera in our vision system. Overall, it has been a very easy transformation thanks to the platform from Univrses,” said Roger Agren.
United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressed by the collaboration project
The collaboration works towards United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals 8, 9, and 17 (Decent work and economic growth, Industry, innovation, and infrastructure, and Partnerships for the goals).
A great idea and early stage product brought Mimbly and Coor together when they won the Kommersialiseringspriset in 2019. Beginning this pilot project at such an early stage allowed both companies to gain a competitive edge and further develop a more sustainable way to do laundry.
Starting as a student project at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg in 2017, Mimbly focuses on creating solutions to make laundry more sustainable. Their first ever matchmaking meeting through Ignite was with facility management company, Coor. This eventually resulted in them working together to further develop the Mimbox which aims to reduce water consumption by up to 70%.
Both companies agree that this early stage collaboration was beneficial at both an environmental and business level. Adding that without Ignite they may never have had a chance to collaborate.
“By collaborating with startups we gain access to their technology before our competitors. We do this because we want to be the most innovative facility management company on the market. Without Ignite Sweden we would have never been able to meet them, and it is in that meeting the imagination sparks and you have an “aha moment,” says Stefan Sernefors, Specialist, Cleaning at Coor.
After a successful first year, the collaboration has now entered a new stage with a more producible version of the Mimbox recently installed at one of Coor’s customer sites in Gothenburg.
“The product we tested in Kista was an early stage prototype but now we have a more producible prototype and the maturity of the product has come further. The site will test the Mimbox under very harsh conditions which is good for the technical development, because if it works at that site, it should work with every site within Coor. We’re really excited about it,” says Mimbly CEO, Isabella Palmgren.
Starting the Collaboration with a Win
Although they met at the Innovationsriksdagen in Borås in 2018, their collaboration didn’t begin until a year later when Mimbly was awarded the 2019 Kommersialiseringspriset (Commercialization prize) by the Swedish Energy Agency, InnoEnergy and Ignite Sweden. This prize, awarded at the Power Circle Summit, allowed them to begin a one year pilot project in June 2019 at Coor’s head office in Kista.
The resulting pilot aimed to further develop and test Mimbly’s add-on product for washing machines called the Mimbox. Coor’s extensive cleaning services and key focus on improving environmental sustainability was a large incentive for them to collaborate with Mimbly. The Mimbox addresses some key environmental challenges including water wastage, energy efficiency and microplastics, and during its early stages had recycled over 5000 litres of water. Their later stage model can now save 1600 litres in just one week.
“We are looking for new solutions that are able to cope with these environmental issues. We love new innovations and in this particular case they addressed some major issues within cleaning. The washing of microfiber cloths and mops produce enormous amounts of microplastics and to have a way of securing them from entering our sewers is perhaps the most critical thing to not getting it banned like plastic bags,” says Stefan.
Though Mimbly’s primary focus is improving the environmental sustainability of laundry, they also want to ensure that their product is easy to use and doesn’t sacrifice on the quality of the wash.
“The most valuable part of this pilot is the process we have created to get the cleanest laundry while being as sustainable as possible, in the terms of not using excessive water and collecting as much microplastic as possible. It has really been a collaborative team effort at every step of the process,” says Isabella.
Gaining a Competitive Advantage
Innovations such as the Mimbox allow Coor to help their customers become more innovative and reach their sustainability goals. These important factors drove Coor to work with Mimbly while it was still in its testing phase.
“We work with startups because we want to be the most innovative company in our sector. To achieve that we must be one step ahead of our competitors. Testing new products before they are available in the market is a huge advantage. It is part of our business strategy.”
“We see from our customer satisfaction index that they like us for our innovative solutions. We can also see from our portfolio that our customers stay longer because not only are they getting a product that is working through Coor, but they don’t need to look elsewhere because they will get development through us,” says Stefan.
However, this early stage cooperation doesn’t just benefit Coor. Isabella says that for Mimbly, testing the solution at Coor’s head office helped them address any technical issues at an earlier stage.
“It is extremely valuable for us to be able to test the technology in a real environment which can really speed up the development of the solution. When you test something internally, you might not find any problems but when you test in a real environment, you find the problems and can do something about it. It creates a great relationship and can lead to a good cooperation for us both,” says Isabella.
Beyond the advantage of implementing new technology first, Coor believes that joining the process early allows them to influence the development to better suit their needs.
“It is important for us to understand how a product is supposed to work. We need to assess if we need staff onsite to follow up or what maintenance it might require. If we get involved early on in a process, we can affect the finished product to better fit our needs. We can also develop processes and package it into a service that works from day one. That wouldn’t be the case if we just bought a finished product,” says Stefan.
Coor also discovered an unexpected side effect when they established new processes for monitoring the product’s development.
“It wasn’t directly linked to the Mimbox, but when we started monitoring the laundry process, we had to set up a structure to make sure the machine didn’t get overfilled and to make sure all the maintenance duties were done by our cleaning staff. By structuring the process, we improved our cleaning results and got cleaner mops,” says Stefan.
The Challenges of Early Stage Development
Beginning a collaboration at an early stage has many benefits but it also comes with some added risk that can slow the process down and bring challenges that don’t occur when engaging with a more finished product. This was one of the reasons why it took a year before the project began according to Stefan.
“Washing for us is a very critical process, if that doesn’t work, an entire contract could stand still, so we had to make sure that this was something we believed in and find the correct contract to test it on. One thing to consider is the risk of failure and what happens if something fails. Another thing is to ask if there is any interest locally. Do we have a customer that believes in it? Because if we are at our customer’s location, they have to buy in on it. And probably most importantly, are there people at the site that are willing to train and make it a success? We needed people who were really interested and had an emotional buyin to make it work but also be aware that it is just a prototype, it’s not a finished product, it is a journey.”
Due to these considerations, Coor decided to test the Mimbox within their own facilities first so they could sort out the internal procedures, and be better prepared for any arising challenges.
“The hard thing about getting into something at this early stage is that there will be mishaps and some things won’t work as intended. We need to believe in this product even though it doesn’t function very well at certain stages and you need to be able to pick things apart,” says Stefan.
“We want to be able to launch a product as fast as possible, and Coor wants to be able to test the product as fast as possible but everything takes longer and costs more money than you think,” says Isabella.
There can also be a steep learning curve when finding the right focus for the product and adapting to technical challenges. However, these can be tackled in a positive way with close collaboration according to Isabella.
“Coor’s needs have changed over time. We first pitched water recycling, energy saving and the Mimbox with a focus on microplastics but when we started the collaboration, we focused mostly on microplastics and filtration because their mops released much more fiber than we had expected.
“We also encountered some technology-related challenges. Some we could predict because they have much dirtier laundry than regular washing machines at residential properties. So we then reduced the recycling rate, corrected our filters and worked upwards so we had control over the washing result. Our product improved every time we changed something small,” says Isabella.
Open Communication Key to Continued Success
Stefan sees this process as a positive thing and says that open communication has helped solve any issues.
“In a process like this, there will always be questions or challenges that you need to solve along the way and you need to have a direct dialogue. It’s better to have errors come up now rather than later.”
This close collaboration and open communication has been extremely important to the success of the pilot project and both companies have maintained close contact to share knowledge and address any issues they’ve found.
“It’s always good to work very closely with a customer. We get a lot more insight into their needs, how they think and what is valuable to them. The cooperation has been great, it could not have gone better. They are very positive and are always encouraging us to test more. Even if there have been hiccups for any reason, they have always been positive about finding solutions,” says Isabella.
“Of course the product is fantastic, but it is the team that Isabella has put together that is the real value because it is their expertise and how they work together with us that we trust. We could maybe buy a similar product but with no one invested in the expertise and the development, that wouldn’t be as interesting for us,” says Stefan.
Things are now moving forward with the project, and with investors as well as funding from the EU and the Swedish Energy Agency, the Mimbox has developed into a more producible product. This more mature prototype will be tested for the next three to six months at a car manufacturing company in Gothenburg.
“The investments helped us go from prototypes that we built completely ourselves, to actually finding a production partner that helps us make producible prototypes that work a lot better. Now the Mimbox is supposed to work without us having to be there everyday to check it. It’s also connected to a platform where you can see your savings, which we will share with Coor and they can share it with their customer,” says Isabella.
“Now the prototype looks more like the planned finished product, but that means it’s harder to make large changes, now it’s more fixed to a standard, so that’s a big thing. But, that’s also why we dare to test it on one of our large customers. The product is live and they expect it to work. The development never stops, but right now we are in a phase where we actively can present and pitch Mimbly’s products in tenders to large potential customers. If we have a potential customer who we know sustainability issues are very high priority, we can try to equip them with a toolbox that is unique for Coor,” says Stefan.
United Nations’ Global Goals Addressed by this Collaboration Project
What can a data science startup do together with an infrared cameras corporation? Much more than what Gemit Solutions and Flir Systems thought when they first met. A year later they had launched to market a solution that they developed together. Watch their presentation at Ignite Sweden Day 2019.
What can a data science startup do together with an international corporation that produces an infrared camera? That was what Gemit Solutions’ CEO, Jonas Bäckman, was thinking when we at Ignite Sweden matched his startup with Flir Systems in May 2018.
“If you think about it, every pixel in that IR image is a temperature data point. Data is what Gemit is good at. So it is a match in heaven. We thought about everything they could help us do with all that data”, remembers Sara Haack, Director of Digital Solutions at FLIR Systems.
And it was a magical match indeed, as six months later they had a proof of concept in place and in May 2019 – that’s exactly a year later after their first meeting- they launched a solution to market.
There are three factors that enabled Flir to take that big step from Proof of Concept to market introduction: Gemit enhances their product, they had a professional team that they trust, and the startup way of thinking around business and working matched their own.
“What Gemit is able to bring to us is a powerful capability to extend our product with the first steps towards decision support for our customers”, explains Lukas Segelmark, Product Manager at FLIR Systems.
Watch this Ignite Sweden collaboration story here.
Would you like to learn the best collaboration practices and meet AI startups to develop new products together, just like Gemit Solutions + FLIR Systems? Join the Sweden Innovation Days on 17-19 November 2020. Sign up on https://swedeninnovationdays.confetti.events/.
SAAB was looking for a startup to help them solve a special challenge when they assisted Ignite Gaming last year. There we matched them with Attractive Interactive, who came up with the solution in record speed. The result was so positive that only three months after their matchmaking meeting, they had already initiated two collaborations together. Watch their presentation at Ignite Sweden Day 2019.
The Swedish aerospace and defense company SAAB had a challenge: how to blend sensor data in a smart way to help pilots land in harsh weather conditions. That was the challenge that they presented to Attractive Interactive when they first met at one of our matchdays in 2019.
– There are a lot of similarities between game development and a typical airspace application. That was the reason why we decided to attend Ignite Gaming in Karlskrona, explains Fredrik Kroll, Manager Innovation & Future Technology at SAAB Avionics Systems.
– It was so interesting for us as a gaming company to use everything that we have learned from making games such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and implement it to airplanes instead, says Pontus Björkberg, COO & co-founder of Attractive Interactive.
The result of this first challenge was so positive that the corporate decided to give yet another challenge to the gaming startup. Two weeks later, Attractive Interactive came up with a proof of concept for a solution that combined machine learning and an algorithm.
– This happened only 3 months after we first met. At that time we have done two collaborations together. We didn’t expect that working with SAAB would have been so fast, admits Pontus.
According to them, mutual trust and having fun are the keys to their collaboration success.
– What has really made us give 110% in this collaboration is that they trusted us to bring ideas to their table in that way. That was really encouraging and got us hooked, says Pontus.
– I am a part of a bigger group within SAAB that works with startup collaboration. We have a quite systematic approach when it comes to working with startups. We have steering and operation groups, lightweight processes, ways of working identified, we use lessons learned… The list can go on and on. But the most important thing for us is having fun. This starts in the actual matchmaking session. We really seek that spark och chemistry. Attractive Interactive is a great example of that, explains Fredrik. Startup collaboration allows us to stay relevant and competitive, he concludes.
Would you like to learn the best collaboration practices and meet AI startups that can help your company become more relevant and competitive, just like Attractive Interaction did with SAAB? Join the Sweden Innovation Days on 17-19 November 2020. Sign up for free here.
This is one of the conclusions that Jan Ackalin from Alfa Laval shared from their successful collaboration journey together with the startup Ekkono Solutions. Watch their presentation at Ignite Sweden Day 2019.
Alfa Laval and Ekkono Solutions was one of the successful use cases that were presented on stage at Ignite Sweden Day 2019 as part of the section: “SCALE IT – From Sweden to Global: How to create a new service to conquer a world market”.
The Swedish industry giant Alfa Laval was looking for startups that could help them in their digital transformation journey when they met Ekkono Solution at one of our matchdays.
– Alfa Laval is a company with 70 000 people and we do mechanical products, and we see this digital transformation all around. (…) We started our journey on digital transformation by defining the values that we wanted to deliver. It took some time to understand how can we deliver what we call connectivity enable services, and how can we add the functions and the features that AI and machine learning can bring to this. We partner up with companies like Ekkono because they deliver value to us and we offer similar values to our customers. So in that sense we also act as a startup”, Jan Ackalin, Head of Automation at Alfa Laval, during the presentation.
Ekkono Solutions does machine learning for IoT. For the startup it was important to find corporate customers with a great domain knowledge.
– When it comes to machine learning, it sounds really cool but it’s really nothing if you don’t combine that with some good domain knowledge. We at Ekkono can never have the domain knowledge about everything that every company does. We need that domain knowledge to make that machine learning together with the data sing. Without that domain knowledge we are really nothing”, says their co-founder and Vice President Sales, Anders Alneng.
Jan Ackalin highlights the importance of collaborating with startups.
– My advice is don’t go alone. Find partners, find people with passion, that know stuff that you don’t do and do things together with them. That’s why we Alfa Laval like companies like Ekkono. They have a passion, a purpose and they do stuff that we aren’t good at yet”, explains Jan.
They finished their presentation by sharing 7 tips that can help both startups and large companies in their own collaboration journeys:
- Identify “don’t go alone” use cases. In which areas should you cooperate with others?
- Engage cross-functional on both sides. You cannot make a business scale if you don’t engage in other parts of the organization.
- Work towards industrialization (roll out) from day one. Have that in mind. Don’t be pleased just because you got a PoC. You must talk to the customer constantly about how you will industrialize the solution.
- Domain knowledge is king! The technical side can always be solved.
- Find startups that have the speed that you would like to have.
- Use matchmaking networks like Ignite Sweden.
#FunFact: Ekkono Solution met Alfa Laval in April 2017 at Ignite Sweden’s very first matchday. But neither Jan nor Anders took part in that initial matchmaking meeting. “That goes to show that you really have to aline on different functions inside companies and you have to work really closely to make something happen”, says Anders.
Would you like to learn the best collaboration practices and meet AI startups that can bring value to your company, just like Ekkono has done with Alfa Laval? Join the Sweden Innovation Days on 17-19 November 2020. Sign up for free on https://swedeninnovationdays.confetti.events/.
Gemit Solutions and FLIR Systems met at one of our matchmaking events in 2018. Only a few months later they started their first project together. Together they have developed a new product which has recently released on the market. Listen to their collaboration journey at our conference Ignite Sweden Day on December 4.
Gemit Solutions met FLIR Systems at an Ignite Sweden matchmaking event held in May last year at THINGS. Only a few months later they started their first project together. This year a product that they have developed together was released on the market.
On Ignite Sweden Day, Jonas Bäckman from Gemit Solutions, and Lukas Segelmark and Sara Haack from FLIR Systems will tell you everything about their collaboration journey: their learnings and challenges from working together, the impact that this collaboration has had in their organisations, and how they together can develop better solutions for their customers.
Ignite Sweden Day will take place at Birger Jarl Conference in Stockholm on December 4. Get your tickets to our annual conference on https://ignite-sweden-day-2019.confetti.events.
In the following article, written by Daniel Retz and published on Teknikföretagen magazine in March 2019, you can read about the beginning of their collaboration story. The article is Swedish language. Please note that Anna-Karin Lindblom doesn’t work at FLIR Systems nowadays.
Win-win för storföretag och startups
När etablerade företag och startups samarbetar får inte bara bolagen själva ett lyft, det kan också bidra till att öka innovationstakten och den ekonomiska tillväxten i Sverige. För själva “matchmaking” står sedan tre år tillbaka projektet Ignite Sweden – och resultaten har inte låtit vänta på sig: “Vi har snabbt kunnat dubblera vår omsättning tack vare samarbetet”, säger Jonas Bäckman på Gemit Solutions.
Allt fler etablerade bolag söker sig till startup-världen för nya idéer och för att öka innovationstakten, vilket i sin tur innebär att kreativa startups kan få sina första kunder. Men det har inte varit lätt för de båda partnerna att hitta varandra, fram till nu, vill säga. Sedan tre år tillbaka finns nämligen det nationella programmet Ignite Sweden vars syfte är att öka samarbetet mellan etablerade bolag och just startups.
– Det är ofta avgörande för startups att på ett tidigt stadium komma i kontakt med potentiella kunder. Och via Ignita kan ge dem en unik access till landets vassaste innovationsbolag – och de kan i sin tur dra nytta av startupsbolagens lösningar. Så det är en riktig win-win-situation, säger Stina Lantz, projektledare på Ignite Sweden.
Ignite Sweden drivs av organisationerna THINGS – ett co-workingkontor på KTH, inkubatorerna LEAD, MINC, STING och UMINOVA samt Swedish Incubators and Science Parks (SISP). Initiativet är finansierat av Vinnova och Energimyndigheten.
Det är kostnadsfritt för startups att vara med i programmet, det enda villkoret för att ansöka är att bolaget är registrerat i Sverige, är yngre än sex år samt att lösningen är skalbar. De etablerade företagen betalar i sin tur en avgift för att få hjälp att identifiera innovationspartners som är relevanta för just dem.
Själva matchmaking-process är behovsbaserad, och den utgår från potentiell affärsnytta. I den inledande mötet med det etablerade företaget för Ignite en behovsanalys, där man undersöker vilket område de har som mål att utvecklas inom under en treårsperiod. Utifrån det identifieras tre huvudområden och därefter börjar jakten på ett lämpligt startupsbolag att samarbeta med.
Hittills har 70 etablerade företag, som ABB, Alfa Laval och Ericsson, länkats samman med 287 startups via programmet. Och även om huvuddelen av medlemmarna verkar inom tillverkningsindustrin så finns det enligt Stina Lantz en spännvidd, allt från kosmetik till stål.
För startupsbolaget innebär samarbetet att de tidigt kan testa en affärsidé och få en första kund i en bransch de vill in i.
– Genom oss får de tillgång till personer på ett större bolag som annars är svåra att nå, och det är ovärderligt för dem. Inom programmet erbjuder vi dessutom stöttning, inom bland annat säljträning och juridik.
De etablerade företagen som deltar i programmet får tillgång till startupbolagets idéer och lösningar. På så sätt kan de utveckla både sina befintliga erbjudanden och ta fram nya.
Bakgrunden till Ignite-programmet är att konkurrensen om bolagen på Sveriges växande startup-scen är stor, och det är inte inte ovanligt att bolagen inleder internationella samarbeten, som ett exempel kan nämnas Googles köp av Limes Audio.
Det är här Ignite kommer in i bilden.
– Genom att vi hjälper startupsbolagen att tidigt få en stark kundrelation i Sverige så stannar de i högre grad kvar, vilket ökar innovationstakten och den ekonomiska tillväxten i landet, säger Stina Lantz.
– Förtroende är grunden till ett fruktsamt samarbete, vad har ni för metoder för att skapa tillit mellan er, de etablerade företagen och startupsbolagen?
– Det handlar om att vi är konfidentiella i varje led och att samtliga parter skriver på avtal om hur allt ska gå till. Och sedan vi först startade Ignite som ett pilotprojekt så har vi byggt upp ett förtroendekapital genom att hela tiden leverera kvalitet.
Ett av företagen som är medlemmar i Ignite-programmet är Flir, världsledande leverantör av lösningar inom IR-teknologi, framförallt värmekameror till industrin och brandförsvaret. Anna-Karin Lindblom är produktchef och ansvarig för Flir Instruments innovationshub, och hon ser samarbetet med ett startupbolag som nödvändigt i en digitaliserad värld.
– Vi är duktiga på vår kärnteknologi, men när man utvecklats till ett stort teknikdrivet produktföretag så kan man i digitaliseringsäldern behöva förnya sig. Inom startupvärlden händer det mycket och det finns många snabbfotade bolag som ligger i framkant, inom exempelvis AI och VR.
Sedan augusti 2018 samarbetar Flir med startupbolaget Gemit Solutions. Tillsammans har de utvecklat en produkt som under våren släpps på marknaden. Den bygger på ett bestlutsstödsystem för industriel data parat med värmekameror, vilket gör det möjligt att visualisera stora mängder data.
– Gemit är experter på tidsseriedata, som gör det möjligt att förutspå potentiella fel i ett system. Och den tekniken har integrerats med våra kameror för att utveckla en produkt för inspektioner av industriutrustning, hos kunder som energibolag och olika typer av tillverkande industrier.
Ignite identifierade Gemit som lämplig samarbetspartner till Flir baserat på företagets mål att hitta lösningar som hjälper deras kunder att analysera stora mängder information. Och deras samarbete bygger på täta avstämningar där Anna-Karin Lindblom fått uppleva ett nytt sätt att arbete.
– Som storföretag har man ofta krångliga processer medan man inom startups säger “OK, nu kör vi”. Det gäller att matcha ihop dessa världar. Vi har lärt oss att jobba agilt, att börja smått och testa oss fram.
Samarbetet innebär ett kreativt lyft som ökar företagets innovationsförmåga, menar Anna-Karin Lindblom.
– Vi får tillgång till ny expertis och ny teknik, spännande sätt att tänka och arbeta. Det ger oss en spets inom områden där vi inte är så starka. Och genom att vi kan testa nya områden, särskilt inom digital transformation, så kan det leda till mer innovativa lösningar för våra kunder.
Samtidigt finns de utmaningar i ett sådant här samarbete, fortsätter hon. En viktig fråga är vem som äger rättigheterna till de innovationer som utvecklas, och här gäller det att teckna avtal.
– Vi har skrivit ett avtal som reglerar mycket av vårt samarbete. Generellt så äger Gemit den del av lösningen som har med tidsseriedata att göra och vi kameradelen. Vi kommer också att licensiera teknologi från dem. För oss är det viktigt att de ska kunna växa, om de lyckas så hjälper det oss.
Det långsiktiga målet för samarbetet med Gemit är att utveckla nya lösningar för marknaden. Och framöver ser Anna-Karin Lindblom både utmaningar och möjligheter.
– Att samarbeta med startups spelar en väldigt stor roll för vår utveckling. Det gäller att hänga med och dra nytta av allt man kan göra inom det digitala. Det är särskilt viktigt med den ökande konkurrensen från bland annat Kina.
Jonas Bäckman är grundare av Gemit Solutions och han ser samarbetet med Flir som en språngbräda ut på marknaden.
– För oss innebär det här en enorm affärsmöjlighet, att vi får tillgång till Flirs kunder är helt outstanding. Jag vill inte nämna några exakta siffror, men vi har snabbt kunnat dubblera vår omsättning, tack vare samarbetet.
Det rör sig om ett effektivt samarbete, fortsätter han, från första mötet i Ignites regi till en produkt redo för marknaden tog det endast tre månader. Och att det flutit på så bra beror på bolagens ömsesidiga respekt för varandras kompetensområden, och inte minst de tydliga avtalen.
– Vi har riktigt bra avtal som reglerar rättigheter till potentiella innovationer och det är jätteviktigt för att vi ska känna oss trygga med att bidra med våra lösningar.
Jonas Bäckman har ett tydligt mål för samarbetet med Flir och med andra storbolag: att ta sig från startupnivå till ett etablerat företag med många anställda. Idag består bolaget av fem personer och planen är att öka med tre per år de kommande två åren.
– Vad ser du för möjligheter framöver?
– Jag ser samarbetet som en start, att vi fick inblick i IR- världen har gett oss nya idéer. Nu när vi kan samla stora mängder data på ett lättöverskådligt sätt är nästa steg att börja titta på AI, för att kunna prediktera framtiden till exempel. Vi har ett sådant projekt på gång som jag inte kan berätta om än.