At Slush conference, ABB engages in entrepreneurial show-and-tell

ABB engages with breakthrough technology startups at world leading event in Helsinki

At the recent Slush conference in Helsinki, ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), the company’s strategic investment unit, was once again a vital participant at an event that in just a few years has emerged as a leading showcase for start-up companies and global innovators.

YuMi®, the world’s first truly collaborative dual-arm robot, was there serving beverages and helping ABB make new friends and catch up with old ones.

The theme for this year’s Slush conference was how technology and entrepreneurship can help solve the world’s biggest challenges. There were keynotes by Al Gore, the former U.S. Vice President; Mark Pincus, founder of Zynga; Cal Henderson, co-founder and CTO of Slack; and Vinod Koshla, founder of Koshla Ventures. And of course there were plenty of pitches and demos, product launches and entrepreneurial stories.

The forum provided an opportunity for the ATV team to prospect for promising ideas among the more than 2,600 other start-ups and 20,000 attendees from 130 countries.

“Most of the startups we have met at Slush have technologies which can provide input to our technology development or business model exploration in one way or another,’’ says Kurt Kaltenegger, Head of Technology for ATV. “Additionally we get a good feeling for the spearheading technology in different sectors. For example we can see how some startups are introducing technologies from the gaming industry to industrial applications.”

Leading by example

As a global innovation leader itself, ABB was not merely watching and listening during the two-day con-vention. The company used Slush to showcase breakthroughs like ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Vision, whose sensor technology and computer vision capabilities makes sea vessels safer and more efficient – and represents a big advance toward autonomous ships.

ABB also presented an augmented reality demo that provided a visualizaiton of in-the-field service work on MV distribution networks. Meanwhile, YuMi’s skills as a temporary server provided a live, continuous demonstration of ABB’s prowess in programmable robots that can safely interact with people and be used to perform an almost infinite variety of tasks.

Finland’s Minister of Employment, Jari Lindström, visited ABB’s booth to view the technologies and discuss the needs for a well-trained workforce, especially talented programmers.

ABB was also co-host for a Slush event with Microsoft that highlighted the two companies’ cooperative work between the ABB Ability™ digital platform and Microsoft’s Internet of Things activities, as well as a discussion of ABB’s approach to partnering with and investing in start-ups.

Engaging with the start-up ecosystem

ABB has long embraced a decentralized approach to innovation that welcomes collaboration with external partners and seeks active engagement with start-up companies.

ATV assesses more than 2,000 startup ideas every year and since 2010 has invested more than $175 million into companies of strategic relevance. Aligned with ABB’s goal of writing the future of industrial digitalization, ATV currently has 18 active portfolio companies that span a range of sectors including robotics; industrial IoT, machine learning, distributed energy and smart buildings.

And yet, ATV represents only one of many important links between the start-up community and ABB.

For example, ABB’s Nordic innovation growth hub, SynerLeap, gives ABB access to innovative technology and creative entrepreneurs in the fields of industrial automation, robotics and energy. In turn, the start-up companies at SynerLeap – there are currently 19 – receive valuable exposure to ABB’s expertise, laboratories and professional networks.

In a competition of more than three-dozen big companies, SynerLeap recently received the Ignite Sweden Startup Engagement award for teaming up with the most start-ups this year.

It was that spirit of entrepreneurial engagement that ATV brought to this year’s Slush – and why ATV looks forward to attending future Slush conferences. ‘‘Events like Slush are key in our quest to scout for new technologies and startups,” says Kaltenegger.

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About the author

Victoria Lietha

I am part of ABB Technology Ventures, ABB’s venture capital unit. I have been with ABB for more than 5 years and I am interested in innovation, technology and sustainable development.
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