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Germany’s best digital labs

Study on digital innovation labs / DigiLabs Awards 2018

Munich, June 22, 2018. Progress on all fronts, but still no unicorns in sight. These are the findings of a study that systematically evaluates the digital units of large and mid-sized companies. The experts for digital transformation strategies, Infront Consulting, a subsidiary of KPS AG, and the business magazine “Capital” took a closer look at digital laboratories. The innovation labs of Lufthansa, Linde, Daimler and ProSiebenSat1 are currently the best digital units in Germany. Why?

The significant increase in the number of innovation labs, company builders and accelerators highlights the huge (pent-up) demand and the desire of the top management to see company’s prosper in the digital world. Groundbreaking new business models are nevertheless still rare. German companies also still have enormous pent-up demand regarding the development of unicorns, which are projects with a market value of one billion US dollars.

“Compared to last year, the established large companies have made progress but are still a long way off their target. They are increasingly optimizing their labs to improve output,” indicated Thomas Sindemann, a partner at Infront and head of the study. KPS Executive Board member Leonardo Musso added: “Our Infront team provides a comprehensive snapshop of the innovation labs at top companies. It provides in-depth analysis, highlights best practices and provides the players with specific recommendations on which approach to adopt.”

DigiLabs Awards 2018

Germany’s best digital innovation units were selected in a two-stage evaluation process consisting of an online survey and personal interviews. The Lufthansa Innovation Hub, founded in 2014, continues to occupy a leading position and again received a “DigiLabs Award 2018” for being the best innovation lab (service) as it did in 2017. Daimler, Linde and ProSiebenSat1 came out top in other categories:

Innovation Labs (industry)

1. Linde Digital Base Camp
2. VW Data:Lab
3. Daimler Fleetboard Innovation Hub


1. ProSiebenSat1 Accelerator
2. SAP Startup Accelerator
3. DB Mindbox

Innovation Labs (service)

1. Lufthansa Innovation Hub
2. SAP Innovation Center Network
3. EnBW Innovationsmanagement

Company builders

1. Daimler Lab1886
2. Viessmann Wattx
3. Sparkassen Innovation Hub

Geographical division of DigiLabs

There are over 150 corporate digital innovation units throughout Germany. Berlin (28%) is the leading location, followed by Munich (15%), the Rhein-Ruhr region (13%), Hamburg and the Rhein-Main region (both 9%) as well as Stuttgart (5%). Over 60% of the innovation labs are located at a different site to their parent company. It is a different story with the company builders where 8 out of 10 units are found in the same city as their parent company.

Key findings of the study

The study analyzed accelerators which identify, select, support and fund start-ups, as well as pure innovation labs with in-house resources and interdisciplinary teams and company builders which develop digital business models from the initial concept to a new company successfully established on the market.

  • only around a third of all innovation labs have performance targets and deadlines which are measured using specific KPIs
  • most innovation labs achieve the targets set
  • procedures for transferring innovation to the core organization exist at half of all innovation labs
  • 80% of the company builders evaluated can freely structure their own processes and work with specialist units in the core organization in a requirement-oriented, effective and pragmatic way
  • only 30% of the accelerators aim to produce disruptive innovations
  • accelerators have thus far only made a limited contribution to the digital transformation of the parent company
  • the willingness of staff to move from the digital laboratory to the main company is currently still low

Innovative digital business ideas (mainly products, services and business models) are developed and devised using agile and flexible methods at the digital innovation units outside of existing structures. The leading companies set up digital innovation units on the basis of clear business assignments. This means they are specifically geared towards shortcomings relating to the company’s own digital transformation.

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