Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions secured big wins at the Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) Innovation Challenge, held on November 10.
The winners were announced following a judging process by a panel that included representatives from MBSA’s parent company, German car maker Daimler.
Nine finalists presented their ideas at a final selection event at the MBSA East London plant, as the culmination of a partnership between MBSA, the LaunchLab and Startup Autobahn that kicked off at the end of August this year.
The two winners in the manufacturing category were DataProphet, a group of machine learning specialists who provide AI and machine learning development through corporate partnerships “with the aim of delivering bleeding-edge machine solutions”, and Vizbility Insight, an AI company specialising in globally scaleable predictive and prescriptive risk management software.
The winner in the sales and marketing category was NumberBoost, a startup that builds machine learning and AI applications.
These category winners each receive R300 000 to pilot their ideas for future use within MBSA.
The overall winner, DataProphet, will travel to Europe next year to pitch their innovation to hundreds of automotive decision-makers at a big Startup Autobahn event, in Germany.
Startup Autobahn is an innovation platform that aims to accelerate joint projects between young tech companies and corporate partners.
"I am highly impressed with the innovative solutions that were displayed at the MBSA Innovation Challenge,” says Daimler Mercedes-Benz cars, manufacturing and supply chain divisional board member Markus Schäfer.
“South Africa has some serious talent. The presentations were absolutely awesome and provided real solutions to the tasks that we face as a company.”
The MBSA Innovation Challenge targeted two thought streams. It asked interested students and professionals (as a first stream) and existing startups (as a second stream) to pitch their ideas to revolutionise the automotive manufacturing, and marketing and sales environment.
MBSA will extend the opportunity for the student stream into 2018, to determine who will get the opportunity to be enrolled by the LaunchLab in its Lift-Off Programme for an initial three-month period.
The Lift-Off Programme will be facilitated from the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab.
“From a MBSA perspective, this challenge is crucial in that it will assist us in increasing agility while developing internal capability that changes organisational culture and the way we work,” notes MBSA CEO and manufacturing executive director Andreas Engling.
“Most importantly, these innovative ideas will allow us to respond to changes and adapt to new market challenges quicker. In this process, we can increase our productivity.”