One year of Innovationswerkstatt: challenges and insights

Exactly one year ago, in November 2020, we ventured into the public arena with the Innovation Workshop. The timing seemed like a great challenge, especially because of the ongoing corona crisis. Now it's time to take stock.

From the beginning, our interest and focus in innovation has been on tangible products and optimizing development and production processes. Thanks to our background in design and product development, it was obvious that we would use this know-how to also support founders and medium-sized companies in particular in getting the best out of their ideas.

On the one hand, this was motivated by the desire to pass on our knowledge to young, motivated people, whom we have had the pleasure of getting to know again and again in the course of semester-long internships over the past few years. On the other hand, we observe the challenge, especially among the medium-sized companies around us, that innovation and innovative products are in demand as they've never been before. However, these companies find themselves in the predicament that innovative product development is a cost factor that represents a financial risk with no guarantee of success. Especially in these current difficult times.

Founding is a trend

And that's a good thing. We need founders with new, fresh ideas. But founders with good ideas also need support in implementing these ideas and making them suitable for series production. Nowadays, there are many aspects, e.g. sustainability and communication, that need to be considered and optimized in product development.

Thanks to our many years of experience in our workshops with a focus on design and development and our collaboration with research institutions, we are able to analyze a product efficiently and start at the right places in terms of optimization. We bring the approach of industry and the flexibility of a small company to the process.

Founders, start-ups and expectations

During 2021, we had the opportunity to test our approach as an Innovation Workshop. The startup scene turned out to be not as we had expected or envisioned. There is a lot of talk about sales and capital and less about what you ultimately want to sell. This is despite the fact that, according to the Deutscher Startup Monitor 2021 , product development comes in second among the major challenges listed by startups - after customer acquisition and before raising capital.

A clear identity is important

Our conclusion from these experiences is that we want to focus more on our industry partners in the future. We have had good experiences with investors who approach us with a product idea and thus found spin-offs from existing companies.

In addition, we see a need to differentiate ourselves from the "Maker Spaces" that we have been caught in the wave of. We are not a Maker Space, nor are we coaches for product invention, but a commercial enterprise with day-to-day business that advises and supports existing product ideas in terms of feasibility and manufacturing, as well as building prototypes. We support founders and investors to develop, design and optimize products - provided they approach us with existing ideas and concepts. We are not supported by another institution, but organize ourselves, are responsible for our own projects and are not involved in the struggle for funding that is ubiquitous in the startup scene. For joint projects, we offer the space to work on them locally.

This clear positioning on the market is something we will take with us from the first year of the Innovation Workshop into the next. Finding and verbalizing our mission statement in such clear terms was perhaps the past year's biggest challenge for us and something we will continue to work on in the future.

We are already looking forward to it.