Effective collaboration between established companies and start-ups is critical to developing the mobility innovations of the future. But for a vari- ety of reasons, forging these partnerships can be a challenge. Here Marc Dörfer, Technology Director & Senior Partner, California Mobility Center (CMC) and COO of PEM Motion USA, offers advice about how to navigate these sometimes complex and intricate relationships and maximize their potential.
Q: Most innovations don’t come from a sudden burst of inspiration. Instead, they’re incubated by interconnected innovation ecosystems. Can you provide a great example of a mobility product or service spawned by this collaborative approach?
Marc Dörfer, California Mobility Center: Even with the few innovations that we think of as originating from a “sudden burst of inspiration,” that vision didn’t come out of nowhere. It comes from an innovator being surrounded by a network, or ecosystem, who they can bounce ideas off and receive feedback. The main differentiator is that the ecosystem is intentional. An intentional ecosystem is more efficient, providing the needed resources to an innovator.A great example of this is German electric truck start-up StreetScooter. Their founding team was very intentional about building an ecosystem made up of academia, industry, and innovators, and set it up around what now is PEM Motion. Their “disruptive network” approach allowed established player access to innovation, while StreetScooter learned how to succeed and found deployment partners. This experience had great influence on the design of the California Mobility Center (CMC). Its ecosystem is intentional. The CMC brings together OEMs, electric utilities, and other industry incumbents with early-stage mobility companies (start ups) in a commercialization collaborative that fosters innovation and speed to market.