Bosch receives award as automotive supplier

Bosch has received an award for its outstanding innovation management in the automotive supplier category of the Best Innovator Awards 2010/2011. The awards’ patron is the German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology. State Secretary Stefan Kapferer presented the awards of this seventh competition to the winners in Berlin. “The Best Innovator award serves both as recognition and motivation for our associates, encouraging them to drive our research and development forward with winning ideas for tomorrow’s world, which in turn secures the long-term future of our company,” said Dr. Volkmar Denner, the Bosch board of management member responsible for research and advance engineering.

Awards went to companies and management teams that follow particularly effective and long-lasting processes for innovation development. The jury was especially impressed by Bosch’s strong commitment to innovation – something which is not only shown by the board of management and the executive management of the divisions, but also a fundamental part of Bosch corporate culture. Innovative spirit has been nurtured to become a core competence, and a group-level innovation management system has been implemented across all divisions.

The Bosch ebike system comprises a drive unit with sensors, a battery and charging unit, and a human-machine interface on the handlebars. Picture: Bosch

“The company’s success is chiefly due to its worldwide network of creative associates, as well as its high-performance innovation process that begins with the development of the innovation strategy and is supported by the perfect methods and tools for generating ideas and evaluating them, with clear roles and responsibilities. This enables successful procedures to be reliably replicated and continuously improved,” said Dr. Martin Hieber, who built up the current system with his team in all 17 Bosch divisions. The definition of a specific budget has given rise to a process whereby engineers can suggest projects for their new product ideas and compete for the funding. In order to ensure that developments stay in touch with market realities, so-called tandem pairs have been set up to bring together marketing and engineering associates.

The Automotive Electronics executive vice president Klaus Meder and the innovation managers Dr. Martin Hieber and Dr. Dirk Linzmeier demon-strated to the jury how impressive the Bosch innovation management system is by presenting an example from their division. Many new ideas emerge as a result of considering how existing technological expertise might be transferred to new areas of application. In the case of the new Bosch eBike drive, its developers marshaled the company’s expertise in the areas of automotive electronics, electric drives, sensor systems, and battery technology. The first bikes featuring Bosch drives premiered at the Eurobike trade show in September 2010.

Good ideas alone are not enough

With 34,000 researchers and developers, Bosch spends some four billion euros each year on projects that are important for the company’s future. The ABS and ESP® vehicle safety systems are among the outstanding fruits of this labor. More recent examples include the fuel-saving start-stop system, the energy-efficient hybrid drive, and the Ixo drill/driver, which has now achieved cult status with some ten million units sold.

But in Bosch’s view, inventions and ideas alone don’t make an innovation. They first need to be put into practice in industry and achieve successful sales to be classed as truly innovative. That’s why every new solution – whether in the shape of a product, function, service, process, or business model – must always create added value for the customer.

The Best Innovator Awards are staged each year by A.T. Kearney and the German weekly business magazine WirtschaftsWoche, under the patronage of the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology. This year’s jury comprised Ernst Burgbacher, parliamentary state secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, president of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Roland Tichy, editor-in-chief of Wirtschaftswoche, and Dr. Kai Engel, partner at the business consultants A.T. Kearney.

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