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Think tank for more innovations: the voestalpine new business incubator

Think tank for more innovations: the voestalpine new business incubator

Since 2020, ideas have been actively and intensely cultivated in Linz. Innovative projects are growing and flourishing in the voestalpine Group Steel Division’s new business incubator (nbi), with some already having been successfully established in the company.

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Almost everyone has heard of Austria’s successful TV show “2 Minuten 2 Millionen” where new business ideas with potential are pitched to a group of investors, and the most promising receive the support they need to achieve a breakthrough. The Steel Division’s new business incubator (nbi) is similar. In this innovative think tank, ideas which are ahead of their time receive everything they need to grow into marketable customer solutions.

Employees at their workplace in the New Business Incubator
voestalpine New Business Incubator (nbi) Workplace

Accelerating to wider horizons

The nbi focuses on new products and services that are “adjacent business”, rather than part of the company’s core focus. In the highly dynamic environment of the core business, such adjacent business would otherwise run the risk of not receiving the attention needed to develop to its full potential.

The nbi offers the freedom to develop ideas, and that is essential to staying one step ahead." cite="Elisabeth A., Head of New Business Incubation

Elisabeth A.
Head of New Business Incubation
Portrait photo of Elisabeth A
Elisabeth A., Head of New Business Incubation

Not for nothing is the nbi located in the strategy department close to the Management Board. This ensures prompt decisions at all times—the key to fast innovation.

Intrapreneurship: the path to the pitch

Recognizing early on that the best ideas often come from within its own ranks, the Steel Division has made intrapreneurship the cornerstone of the nbi. Every employee in the division is invited to submit and present new business ideas. Three times a year, the Steel Division’s Advisory Board brings together the Management Board and external experts to learn about the division’s most promising innovative ideas. In 10-minute pitches, the teams present their ideas, which the Advisory Board assesses based on specific criteria. Then the Advisory Board decides which ideas to put in the nbi and pursue further.

Inclusion voestalpine new business incubator area for meetings
voestalpine New Business Incubator (nbi) Work process

Full speed ahead

Once an idea has made it into the nbi, the idea teams effectively become internal start-ups. In the supportive environment of the nbi, they brood on their business ideas, freed from the constraints of day-to-day business and supported by mentors. The ideas are tested and developed in this safe sandbox and adopt open innovation principles to gain rapid feedback directly from the market. The projects remain in the nbi for six to 24 months. Once they have successfully completed the first phase, the ideas are given the final polish in the subsequent acceleration phase, ideally allowing them to make the leap to series production and sales.

In the nbi there are no bad ideas and no failures. Even projects that do not reach market maturity are successful projects, because in the end they have shown us that there is no market for the product in question.

Jürgen S.
Head of New Business Acceleration & Sales
Portrait photo of Jürgen S
Jürgen S., Head of New Business Acceleration & Sales

Time to Explore

The nbi started in April 2020 with two teams, and space soon became an issue. Just one year later, the nbi moved into new premises offering a working environment which reflects the modern spirit of the concept. An open office with different work zones and shared working desks now gives fresh and free ideation the right space in which to mature. Today, the nbi offers room for around 25 people: core team, mentors, sales, and the changing idea teams. The nbi provides an ideal environment for exploration.

In the nbi the idea teams can develop freely, and in so doing actively contribute to the success and future of the company.

Elisabeth A.
Head of New Business Incubation

Piece of the puzzle for the future

As intensively as it supports new projects, the incubator itself is developed: with a more strategic approach, even closer cooperation with start-ups and the other voestalpine divisions, and together with the business units for an even more targeted focus on topics relevant to the future. “The nbi must remain agile. That’s why we’re in a state of permanent reorientation and optimization, growing with every challenge we master,” says Jürgen S. “There are many other extremely interesting topics under consideration, and that makes nbi truly a piece of the puzzle that can contribute to the future viability of the voestalpine Steel Division,” says Elisabeth A.

Successfully incubated

The concept of nbi as a link between product and market is effective. This can be seen in the first successes that have been achieved in just a short time. The TransAnt project for innovative modular lightweight freight cars has even been spun off as a separate limited liability company. Tailormade functional steel, an intelligent steel solution with integrated additional functionalities, is currently in the acceleration phase, where the decision is being made to move toward commercialization. Market potential for PVD systems and perforated plates that could be used as noise barriers, like many other exciting projects, are currently under development.

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Die voestalpine ist ein weltweit führender Stahl- und Technologiekonzern mit kombinierter Werkstoff- und Verarbeitungskompetenz. Die global tätige Unternehmensgruppe verfügt über rund 500 Konzerngesellschaften und -standorte in mehr als 50 Ländern auf allen fünf Kontinenten. Sie notiert seit 1995 an der Wiener Börse. Mit ihren Premium-Produkt- und Systemlösungen zählt sie zu den führenden Partnern der Automobil- und Hausgeräteindustrie sowie der Luftfahrt- und Öl- & Gasindustrie und ist darüber hinaus Weltmarktführer bei Bahninfrastruktursystemen, bei Werkzeugstahl und Spezialprofilen. Die voestalpine bekennt sich zu den globalen Klimazielen und verfolgt mit greentec steel einen klaren Plan zur Dekarbonisierung der Stahlproduktion.