German conglomerate Siemens announced on Tuesday a new standalone startup unit dedicated to fostering “disruptive ideas more vigorously and accelerate the development of new technologies.”
Siegfried Russwurm, Siemens chief technology officer, will be the acting head of the unit, named next47. It will receive €1 billion ($1.12 billion) in funding for the first five years.
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Next47 will be focused on “forward-looking fields” such as artificial intelligence and decentralized electrification. The unit’s first project will be a hybrid or fully electric aircraft for small to medium sized planes, which it will demonstrate by 2020 to Airbus.
On top of that, next47 is also working on blockchain applications that could make data transfer and energy trading more safe and secure.
Siemens mentions autonomous machines and networked mobility as two other areas for innovation, though it doesn’t reveal any other individual projects.
“Siemens itself was a startup in 1847—founded in a rear courtyard in Berlin,” said Joe Kaeser, president and CEO of Siemens AG. “With next47, we’re living up to our company founder’s ideals and creating an important basis for fostering innovation as we continue Siemens’ development.”
Siemens not new to startups though
Next47 will be open to startups and developers outside of Siemens, though we assume any projects built inside the incubator will be under some control of Siemens, whether that’s full ownership or a share of the company’s stock. Startups will be able to harness Siemens wide range of systems, which could be a huge advantage for small teams that want to build platform to scale.
Siemens wants to make startups feel welcome inside next47, and mentions its €800 million ($892 million) investment into startups in the past 20 years.
Huge corporations often times build small subsidiaries to push growth in emerging markets. Google X Labs is the most well known, the unit that brought up Google Glass, Project Loon, and other immensely innovative and challenging projects, which can be found on the company’s site.