"Products, software, and services should spark enthusiasm in customers," said Dr. Stefan Hartung, the CEO of Bosch at the Top Executive Meeting in 2022, adding at the same time, that he believes "it is essential that innovations are made available to the broad mass of people in order to improve quality of life for as many as possible while also conserving natural resources."
Innovation is one of the core strengths of Bosch, allowing us to thrive in so many fields and to overcome usual and unusual business obstacle such as the chip shortage, where Bosch has taken a leading role by developing its own chips for automotive and consumer applications in Dresden and Reutlingen, after massive investments and an increased focus in the field in recent years.
Bosch simultaneously innovates its traditional core business ("exploit") and develops new businesses beyond the core ("explore"). It is crucial for innovation activities to understand in which context they are operating, because the methods, tools, and appropriate deliverables involved in validating and scaling a business are fundamentally different. The x-axis of the graphic below describes the organizational capabilities of the company, including technologies, business processes, culture, business models, customer relationships, logistical competencies, and so forth. The y-axis describes in which intended market the initiative wishes to be active. Depending on the context (explore or exploit), the activity must choose the appropriate methods and tools to validate its intended business model. For activities in an exploit context, the Incubation phase can be omitted.
Fig. 1 Exploit vs. Explore innovation fields
The Bosch Innovation Framework describes the criteria necessary for evaluating the progress (i.e. maturity) of innovations in order to make evidence-based investment decisions. A framework that guides all innovation initiatives within Bosch, with most of the company accelerators already implementing it.
The criteria are organized into logical maturity phases, which are typically iterative, meaning the steps necessary to fulfil the criteria can be repeated, e.g. if new learnings require a change in the concept ("pivot"). The goal is to promote transparent, de-risked investment decisions based on the evidence presented.
Fig. 2 The Bosch Innovation Framework
Gates separate the eight phases where the maturity of the concept should be assessed (Innovation Maturity Gates IM0 - IM5, Quality Gates QG0 - QG4). They serve as synchronization points for parallel key processes, e.g. sales, purchasing, and manufacturing.
Gate criteria for IMs consider the expected increments of the respective phase. The goal of an IM is to decide whether to continue, to refine, to go back to a previous phase or to stop.
No matter where in the sequence of phases an activity starts, all previous and current criteria must be met.
Based on strategic input, search fields are defined and prioritized.
A search field describes a limited and potential business opportunity in which to search for innovations. Since selected search fields should match the strategic goals, search fields act as a link between strategy and innovation. Search fields help channel creativity and serve as a focus for innovation activities, i.e. capacities and resources.
Typically, this activity is conducted by the strategy, business development or innovation team in cooperation with the organizational unit management.
The search field is investigated to discover unsolved problems and to more specifically define the problem space.
This phase helps to define the problem space by identifying customer jobs, pains and gains associated with unsolved problems. It serves as preparation for generating ideas in the next phase.
Ideation is a systematic process of generating various ideas addressing desirability, viability, or feasibility and must be based on an understanding of the problems to be solved. Business model concepts are generated and compiled to address the identified problems, using creativity methods and tools. Invention reports are submitted to protect the ideas by patents.
Concepts are prioritized based on criteria such as their position in the innovation portfolio, business attractiveness, potential to meet user needs, technical feasibility, and brand fit. Target markets and their implications (e.g. culture, laws etc.) are identified. A first assessment of key technologies and their fit with existing Bosch technology fields may be carried out. A (re)assessment of strategic fit must be conducted.
Hypotheses are tested and refined to generate evidence for the business model. The business model is validated and refined.
A repeatable sales process is created and iteratively developed to bridge the gap between early adopters and mass-market customers.
Along with the sales process, initial marketing, launch, production, and logistics processes can be arranged.
Products are sold to end customers and the profitable scalability of the business model is proven.
The offering and the organization are developed for the target market. Depending on the organizational maturity, the next phase is either a series development according to an established Product Engineering Process, or a phase in which scaling and company building take place in parallel to the development of the product. In both explore and exploit, a product development project or operation is carried out based on the Bosch Engineering System.
The product is delivered to the market on a continuous basis.
Field operations are conducted. This includes systematic and pro-active collection of field data in order to gain insights to continuously improve the product and to quickly react to incidents and defects.
Taking as a basis the Bosch Innovation Framework and evaluating the internal accelerator ecosystems, we have established, inspired by existing programs, a local program that fits best the needs of our organization: ensuring dedicated time for the teams to focus on their ideas and close business-oriented support through coaches and high-level management mentors.
Innovation needs to be supported and ensured by a safe environment where teams can focus on their ideas. For this, at Bosch Engineering Center, we have established TecHive as the platform to empower our colleagues to work on new business ideas in exploratory fields with mentoring and coaching. Our goal is to focus locally on the ideas up until the incubation phase.
The core program is the 100 Days Journey that consists of two phases:
The Bootcamp, where for two and a half days the teams go deeper in the identified problems, assisted by coaches.
Fig. 3 Integration of the 100 Days Journey within the Bosch Innovation Framework
As any innovation process, it implies a steep learning curve for the teams, allowing for quick fails and pivoting to new approaches, with close support offered by our coaches. The main focus is shaping the optimal mindset for the start-up environment, with views from both inside and outside the company, focusing on methods such as: problem definition, customer interviews, business case, business model canvas, pitching etc. Our external coach is working with start-up teams all over Romania and Europe and offers the much needed 'outside perspective'.
In the Bootcamp, the associates from the Engineering Center discover innovation tools that will bring an added value to their technical skills and prepares them for the next steps of the program.
The teams entering the 100 Days Journey receive 10.000 EUR funds per team, mentorship by local high management, coaching and 80 % of their work capacity freed to be able to demonstrate their commitment and drive to push forward their ideas. This is a great opportunity for the colleagues that are interested in bringing their idea to the market: either through a start-up or in a business unit.
TecHive 100 Days Journey first batch started with 29 participants (nine teams) in September 2021. Seven teams were selected to enter the Bootcamp, from which two teams merged due to their similar ideas. Out of these teams, based on the business opportunity and fit, five entered the pitches and two were selected to start their 100 Days Journey. The 3 search fields that TecHive focused on in 2021 were in the Mobility area: Data-driven mobility services, In-vehicle experience improvement and improved freight services.
What about the ideas that were not a perfect fit for our search fields? No problem! Our teams with great ideas in different search fields were redirected towards the matching divisions in Bosch to have their ideas evaluated and see how they can proceed to have the idea implemented.
We were impressed by how our participants managed to grow their ideas, learned to reach milestones on their part and consolidate strong collaborations. The two remaining teams are still working on their projects and are getting ready for the exit pitch in April this year. We are curious to see where their determination and hard work will take them, while the mentors, coaches and we, the organizers, are supporting them along the way. In parallel with the business development, the mentors, teams and organizing teams are establishing where will the teams continue their work after the exit pitch ("happy-home").
The TecHive team is ready to challenge more colleagues from the Engineering Center in 2022 to share their passion for innovation and to make a positive change in the world. The call for ideas for the next batch of 100 Days Journey is planned to be launched in March-April.
The 100 Days Journey is the core element of our innovation ecosystem. Complementary, other elements that form the TecHive currently are the following (the number of initiatives and projects is constantly growing):
Thursdays in the HUB, a regular event to support our colleagues to generate solutions to problems that they encounter during their daily work in a non-formal environment, during working hours when their projects permit
We Grow Together, an initiative to offer coaching sessions and courses to teams that participate in an international Bosch accelerator program in the Mobility field
Inventor of the Year Award, rewarding our colleagues with the most invention reports submitted in the previous year
With such programs, we at Bosch Engineering Center are getting ready for the future. We believe that our innovation culture, future-oriented mindset and hunger for making a positive impact on society will help us to come with new solutions for a better future.
by Ovidiu Mățan
by Mihai Șerban