German materials manufacturer Covestro is taking the first steps in its recently announced start-up engagement approach in China. The company wants to help start-ups to improve their products and materials choice in an early stage of their development. For that reason, it is present in accelerators or incubating spaces in innovation hubs such as Shenzhen. In “China’s Silicon Valley of hardware” it meets and approaches entrepreneurs to offer help, advice and sharing of know-how on materials and solutions that help them to bring their products to market readiness.
“With all the decisions the entrepreneurs have to make, choice of materials is often not considered very deeply,” said Dr. Michael Schmidt, Head of Innovation for Covestro in the APAC region. “However, materials and advanced engineering give products the competitive edge. So we intend to be at the right place at the right time and help the start-ups in their materials decision, and leverage this potential. We hope this will lead to long-term partnerships and are happy that we are already helping some of the talented inventors from all over the world that gather in Shenzhen.”
Accelerators in certain areas such as Shenzhen are particularly interesting for Covestro since their focus is on electronics or other areas for which the company offers materials and solutions. In Shenzhen for example, Covestro helps hardware start-ups like Moona from France and Carv, founded in the UK.
Moona increases sleep quality – with materials from Covestro
After raising nearly $150,000 via Kickstarter, the two founders of Moona, David Stoikovitch and Coline Juin, pursued their idea of a smart device that recognizes your sleep patterns and helps you get a better sleep. “Moona” is composed of a bedside device and a pillow pad. Through water circulation within the pillow pad it regulates the temperature of your pillow and thus your head: cooling down to fall asleep, warming up to gently wake you up. The pad now uses thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) from Covestro.
“We use a variety of complex materials,” said Dhylane Nguyen, Moona’s Engineer in Shenzhen. “Getting the materials right to ensure comfort and quality is very important for us. Having Covestro here on the ground in China is really helping us to accelerate our product development.”
Carv is your digital skiing coach – with a device made of polycarbonate
UK-based start-up Carv offers a combination of a smart insert for your ski boot, a Bluetooth tracker and an app for your smartphone. Together they make up an intelligent device that tracks and monitors the movements of the skier and gives real time advice on how to improve your skills through the app straight to your earphones. After collecting $275,000 on Kickstarter, the team produced the first batch of their products and faced some materials issues. They came back to Shenzhen to fix them and met Covestro, who helped do exactly that.
“We had some issues with the material of our tracker that is attached on the outside of the skiboot,” said Jamie Salter, Carv’s VP of engineering. “The material cracked too easily when it got hit, for example by a skilift. We had already done material tests and so were surprised about the problems. We would need multiple degrees to figure the material science out. Having direct access to Covestro’s experts here is fantastic for us.”
By supporting start-ups, Covestro follows its approach of going new ways when it comes to business models. With this attitude, backed by the experience of 80 years in the material sciences field, the company follows a comprehensive approach to support and learn from the start-ups and from being in areas like Shenzhen.
With 2017 sales of EUR 14.1 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,200 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2017.
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