Another strategic step into the future is ZF’s joint venture with Plug and Play, a start-up accelerator based in Sunnyvale in California’s famed Silicon Valley. The collaborative venture with Plug and Play is ZF’s response to the challenge of finding and filtering the many business start-ups that could be relevant to the company’s multifaceted technology-focused activities. The Californian firm has been actively involved in start-up accelerator programs for years, all over the world. Plug and Play has helped more than 2,000 start-ups on their way over the past decade, and is already familiar with the auto industry. Its German arm is working closely with automaker Daimler and the University of Stuttgart on the “Startup Autobahn” project – and now ZF has joined the party.
Once a potential partner has been identified and contacted, it’s often only a short step to an actual project. “ZF can benefit from working with start-ups in various ways,” says Torsten Gollewski. Over many years of working in the auto industry, he has built up extensive experience of collaborating with fledgling technology companies. In Gollewski’s view, key benefits include unconventional thinking, creative new processes and shorter, faster progress from initial idea to series production. This is why it is important that collaboration with startups shouldn’t be restricted to the Advanced Development unit. ZF’s divisions are also embracing this stimulating opportunity; it is they, after all, who are responsible for series production at ZF – and ultimately, for the time it takes to bring finished products to market.