BMW and Alibaba to consult digital startups in China

16 July 2020 2 min. read

BMW is collaborating with Alibaba to build an innovation base in Shanghai that will act as an incubator of sorts for Chinese tech startups working on automotive innovation.

Most automotive innovation in China is currently focused on internet and the vehicle, leveraging the latest in smart connectivity, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. BMW and Alibaba are looking to fuel this innovation, with the objective of consulting and supporting a minimum of 300 startups over the next three years.

At the innovation centre, BMW and Alibaba will offer these firms a variety of consulting services and technical training. In addition, at least 30 startups will be given office space at the centre, while 20 companies will be provided with financial docking services at the new facility.

China is BMW’s largest market as well as its most significant manufacturing base. BMW has three research & development (R&D) centres in China, which is more than it has in any other country barring Germany. The company is looking to change the role of the Chinese market in its supply chain.

Where the country has previously been viewed as a manufacturing hub across the globe, tech innovation has gained considerable momentum in the country. In fact, the automotive sector has emerged as a central driver of tech disruption in China.

BMW and Alibaba to consult digital startups in China

As explained by President & CEO of BMW Group in China, Jochen Goller, BMW is hoping to “enable the shift from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Innovated in China.” In addition, Chinese consumers appear to have embraced the future, particularly with respect to autonomous vehicle technology.

report from 2018 revealed that Chinese consumers came out ahead of those in Japan, Germany, France and the US when it comes to excitement around autonomous vehicles. The primary reason emerged as the ability to sleep and generally relax while behind the wheel. This positive attitude makes China an attractive market in which to push forward with automotive tech advancement.

“The auto industry is undergoing a major transformation driven by technological development. In the midst of industrial upgrading and transformation, we need to keep an open mind and to collaborate with outstanding Chinese innovation powerhouses in order to scale new technologies for future mobility,” siad Goller.

Ren Geng, Vice President of Alibaba added, “The base’s establishment underscores the innovative forces driving future mobility. With the joint efforts of our partners, we are offering an open innovation incubation ecosystem to accelerate the growth of the startups.”

BMW and Alibaba have a history of collaboration in China, with the German automotive company adding Alibaba’s voice assistant Tmall Genie to all its Chinese cars back in 2018. This is in addition to a number of other partnerships that BMW has cemented in the country, including a 5G agreement with China Unicom and a data platform collaboration with Tencent.