Startups, professionals and students invited to submit ideas for “Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Innovation Challenge”

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI), Urban Engine, STARTUP AUTOBAHN, and The University of Alabama have formed a strategic partnership to launch the “MBUSI Innovation Challenge.” The initiative is aimed at engaging Alabama’s thriving college and professional startup community to tackle critical challenges faced in automotive production flow management, big data efficiencies, and digital communications. 

The MBUSI Innovation Challenge seeks to inspire creativity in the automotive sector through collaboration and energize current and next-generation startups and problem-solvers to build innovative solutions using creative business strategies, software development, and technology.

Student challenge participants stand to win a cash price of $5,000, while startups could win their share of up to $50,000 for incubation support, international exposure, and the chance to become a supplier for MBUSI or MBUSI’s parent company, Daimler AG. 

“Innovation is born when you combine a creative solution with the knowledge to execute on it and the necessary data to prove it works,” said MBUSI President and CEO, Jason Hoff. “Innovation is the key to addressing the complex challenges we face every day in an advanced manufacturing environment as we strive to improve quality and efficiency of our processes and systems. Our hope is this Challenge will attract the best and brightest students and startups to the automotive industry to apply their insights and know-how to help drive continuous improvement to help us maintain our competitive advantage.” 

How It Works 

The MBUSI Challenge -- which runs through June 19, 2018 -- will target two streams of candidates:

  • Stream One - Students and professionals
  • Stream Two - Existing startups

Candidates from both streams will pitch their innovative ideas to advance manufacturing and enterprise processes around a set of challenges specifically identified by MBUSI. The challenges span various topics, including big data analysis of manufacturing operations, the digitization of production flow management, app-based solutions for the engagement of employees, and more. 

Online applications will open immediately. An informational webinar is to be held in May for all interested participants. Students and startups will be asked to provide both a brief overview of their team and initial ideas on the challenge they select. 

After thorough review by the selection committee, a shortlist of semi-finalist candidates from both streams will enter the second phase of the challenge. During this phase, teams will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one at MBUSI’s facility in Vance, Alabama, with innovation experts from MBUSI, Urban Engine, STARTUP AUTOBAHN, and The University of Alabama to discuss and hone their challenge solutions. 

On June 19, selected semi-finalist teams will present their final idea to a judging panel comprised of MBUSI experts who will rate their ideas on potential impact, creativity, complexity, end-product, and presentation, and, ultimately, select the MBUSI Innovation Challenge winners. 

Throughout the challenge, progress and news will be shared both on the challenge website, INNOVATEWITHMBUSI.COM and MBUSI’s Facebook page.


MBUSI Innovation Challenge Partners

MBUSI, Urban Engine, STARTUP AUTOBAHN, and The University of Alabama are well-positioned to support this unique opportunity for U.S.-based innovation talent. 

"Urban Engine is excited to partner with MBUSI and STARTUP AUTOBAHN to present the MBUSI Innovation Challenge,” said Toni Eberhart, Executive Director of Urban Engine. “The program presents an expedited avenue for technology businesses, startups, and students to begin a relationship with Daimler thereby enabling them to launch and grow for mutual benefit. We look forward to engaging our community and watching the incredible opportunities afforded by this program unfold." 

Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne, Executive Director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, remarked that, “The University of Alabama is proud to be part of the MBUSI Innovation Challenge. We are bringing together entrepreneurially-minded students and faculty experts from colleges and centers across the University as well as engaging startups at the EDGE incubator and accelerator in Tuscaloosa to collaborate on responses to the Challenges. We are all very excited to be part of this unique opportunity to work together and enhance the entrepreneurial spirit and ecosystem in Western Alabama." 

“We are looking forward to creative and new concepts from interesting startups and promising talents from the United States. With the innovation platform STARTUP AUTOBAHN, we can boost these pioneering ideas to shape the future of mobility and production,” says Dr. Philipp Gneiting, manager of STARTUP AUTOBAHN, Daimler AG. 

STARTUP AUTOBAHN is a global innovation platform co-founded by Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG that connects startups with corporations in the mobility and production industry. 

As part of the global Daimler AG network, MBUSI has an unparalleled track record in innovation and pioneering spirit. After bringing advanced automotive manufacturing to the South more than 20 years ago, MBUSI today is responsible for more than 10,000 jobs at its plant in Vance and through suppliers across the region. With an annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion, MBUSI’s success in Alabama has paved the way for many other foreign automakers to call the South their home. 

About Mercedes-Benz U.S. International

MBUSI – located in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama – is the production location for the GLE, GLS and GLE Coupe SUVs around the world, as well as the C-Class sedan for North America. In 2017, the plant produced nearly 300,000 vehicles. MBUSI currently employs more than 3,700 team members and supports 7,000+ jobs on the approximately 1,000-acre site. In September 2017, Mercedes-Benz announced another $1 billion investment that will equip the plant in building electric vehicles by the beginning of the next decade.  

About Urban Engine

Urban Engine is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that Propels Ideas Forward by empowering the next generation of thinkers, makers, doers, leaders, and founders to succeed. Urban Engine accelerates economic development through innovation education programming and by connecting aspiring entrepreneurs and established business leadership with educational resources, talent, and community. 


STARTUP AUTOBAHN is the ultimate innovation platform that unites global young tech companies with the unrivalled tech expertise of Silicon Valley and the best of German engineering. We are a neutral innovation platform moderating an in-depth and curated collaboration between our partners from the industry and young tech companies also considering and supporting key success factors like cultural mindset change within legacy corporations. Our network of investment firms and mentors further helps the growth of tech companies. Our home is Stuttgart – the birthplace of the automobile, one of the leading IP regions of the world, and a hub of business, engineering, and groundbreaking inventions. A total of 74 startups graduated from the innovation platform with more than 130 pilot projects so far. 

About The University of Alabama

The University of Alabama offers a comprehensive approach toward supporting entrepreneurial efforts via a number of outreach and research centers and a culture that actively supports business development. Centers such as the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute and the EDGE incubator and accelerator work across the University to connect student entrepreneurs with partners such as the City of Tuscaloosa and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. The goal of these efforts is to provide a framework that helps new and established businesses innovate and grow.