University of Alabama students and startups are invited to compete for cash prizes in the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Innovation Challenge. The challenge seeks to inspire creativity in the automotive sector through collaboration, energizing current and next-generation startups and problem-solvers to build innovative solutions using creative business strategies, software development, and technology.
Key aspects of the challenge include tackling critical issues faced in automotive production flow management, big data efficiencies and digital communications.
The Challenge includes a wide variety of potential projects, all of which are available to review here.
Student challenge participants stand to win $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.
The Challenge is a result of a partnership between Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., Urban Engine, STARTUP AUTOBAHN, the EDGE and The University of Alabama.
“Innovation is born when you combine a creative solution with the knowledge to execute it and the necessary data to prove it works,” said MBUSI President and CEO Jason Hoff. “Our hope is this Challenge will attract the best and brightest students and startups to the automotive industry to apply their insights and knowledge to help drive continuous improvement to help us maintain our competitive advantage.”
The UA effort is coordinated by the campus-based Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute.
Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne, executive director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, said, “The University of Alabama is proud to be part of the MBUSI Innovation Challenge. We are bringing together entrepreneurial-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.”
How to Enter the Challenge
The MBUSI Challenge, which began April 11 and runs through June 19, targets 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 big data analysis of manufacturing operations, the digitization of production flow management, app-based solutions for the engagement of employees, and more.
Apply at INNOVATEWITHMBUSI.COM.
Informational webinars and sessions at the EDGE will be held in May. 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 short list of semifinalists from both streams will enter the second phase of the challenge. During this phase, teams will meet one-on-one with innovation experts from MBUSI, Urban Engine, STARTUP AUTOBAHN and UA at MBUSI’s facility in Vance to hone their challenge solutions.
On June 19, the semifinal 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.