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KI-Garage: Making Baden-Württemberg an AI Startup State

On February 03, 2021, the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung's „KI-Garage“ was launched with a virtual kick-off event. The KI-Garage supports founding projects from Baden-Württemberg universities, research institutions, and startups in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) - from the idea to the finished product. The KI-Garage is carried out by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the University of Heidelberg, the University of Mannheim, the Heidelberg Technology Park and other partners.

"AI is a key technology of the future," explained Dr. Thomas Prexl, head of the startup office at Heidelberg Technology Park, at the opening of the event with around 160 participants. "We want to educate entrepreneurs with the KI-Garage. We want to support researchers to develop products and services based on science. At the start of the KI-Garage, the focus is on networking, on exchange." An important aspect of the KI-Garage in this context is the promotion of diversity. Women in particular are to be motivated to found businesses in the field of artificial intelligence.

Potential of key technology AI far from fully utilized

"AI is ubiquitous, but we haven't yet fully exploited its potential," says Dr. Andreas Weber, head of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung's education department. "With the KI-Garage, the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung has launched an initiative that aims to help young founders gain access to companies in order to turn ideas from AI into products and services in joint projects. This is also primarily about providing educational opportunities, communicating new perspectives and making the innovative potential visible." Weber called on other research and educational institutions to join this emerging network.

Michael Feygelman, project manager of the KI-Garage at the Heidelberg Technology Park, also solicited network partners and explained the building blocks on which the KI-Garage is based:

  1. Sensitization phase: In this phase, the aim is to show participants what is possible with AI in a wide variety of disciplines
  2. Qualification phase: This is where ideas are put to the test. Ideas are validated and developed into a viable business model with people interested in founding a company from the research community and startups in the early stages of formation.
  3. Establishment phase: The goal of this third phase is to bring together mature startups with companies and investors.

"We can become world class"

Several experts spoke about their experiences with founding AI startups in live lectures, interviews or video clips - including Vanessa Cann, Managing Director and Chairwoman of the KI-Bundesverband (German AI Association). She showed the participants Germany's position in the AI industry. "We are not yet world class when it comes to building AI products. But: We can become world class." The prerequisite, she said, is clear and proportionate regulation, education, investment in young companies and incentives for investors to start with AI. Cann sees the KI-Garage as a good offering to help AI startups on their journey to success.

The following speakers also spoke:

  • Dr. Daniel Kondermann, Computer Vision Scientist and founder of Quality Match GmbH representing scientists about challenges from a scientific point of view (Video)
  • Jörg Bernauer, founder of PrimingCloud GmbH
    on the topic of "Founding in the AI environment" (Video)
  • Dr. Julia Hoxha, founder of Imprint Zana Technologies GmbH on the topic of " Startups as AI Innovation Drivers" (Live Interview)
  • Dr. Simone Burel, Managing Director of the Linguistic Consulting Company (Linguistische Unternehmensberatung) on AI in business and diversity in the AI field (Video)

"Become part of our network!" With this appeal, Michael Feygelman bid farewell to the participants at the end of the event. "With the help of the KI-Garage, let's make Baden-Württemberg an AI startup state!"

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