Wrap up 2023: Reflecting on a Year of Innovation

2023 was a year full of innovations, collaboration and exciting projects. We are all the more excited about the upcoming Open Innovation Challenges in 2024! But as the ones that started in 2023 are slowly coming to an end, it's time to look back. Let’s take a moment to celebrate our achievements, acknowledge the challenges we have faced, and chart the course for the promising future ahead.


In 2023 we have tackled challenges in our 6 innovation programs, focusing various industries and disciplines, from technology to sustainability, healthcare to education.

Future Finance

In 2023, our Future Finance Program, supported by the Federal Ministry of Finance under the leadership of Finance Minister Christian Lindner, brought together visionary Challenge Providers and innovative minds to tackle some of the most pressing issues in the financial sector.
Five innovative challenges were undertaken with leading financial institutions.

  • BHW Bausparkasse sought solutions to enhance customer experience and loyalty in long-term financial contracts. Hamburg Commercial Bank aimed to digitize its shipping finance segment through a B2B platform approach. LBBW focused on developing user-friendly dApps for impact investing using blockchain technology. Santander aimed to optimize omnichannel banking experiences for customers.
  • Sparkasse Bremen explored the potential of GPT-4 and similar technologies to enhance financial services for its customers.

In total, these 5 challenge providers received over 100 submissions from more than 260 researchers and start-ups from over 33 countries. In 2024, the BMF and Christian Lindner are also involved and we already have a number of players from the financial sector. Partners from the last round have also committed there and will participate again in 2024.

Deutschland 4.0

Our Deutschland 4.0 program focuses on Germany's digital transformation with esteemed challenge providers partnering with us to drive digital innovation across various industries.
The challenges were conducted last year, covering diverse sectors such as public broadcasting, insurance, finance and waste management.

  • WDR aimed to develop their platform to foster societal discourse, while Württembergische Versicherung sought digital solutions for personalized insurance experiences, particularly targeting younger demographics.
  • The Urban Mobility Hubs Challenge with Volkswagen aimed to develop innovative strategies and business models for urban mobility hubs in major German cities like Hamburg, Munich, and Berlin. The goal was to create scalable and customizable business models tailored to each city's needs, transferable to other regions and scenarios.
  • BSH wanted to address shifting customer needs and digital trends in real estate financing by innovating marketing strategies and introducing new products to establish closer connections with potential customers.
  • In collaboration with Iqony, we aimed to enhance the efficiency of wind turbines by making complex process data more accessible through creative and intuitive visualizations.
  • LBBW explored technologies to enhance transparency and tradability of physical securities.
  • EEW focused on refining waste composition analysis to boost recycling efforts and operational efficiency.
  • Nussbaum Medien concentrated on creating a digital platform tailored for young families, offering local information and services to enhance engagement and meet their needs effectively.

In total, these 7 challenge providers received over 120 submissions from more than 430 innovators from over 30 universities.

INNOVATE2030 (5th Edition)

In partnership with the Federal Environment Agency, INNOVATE2030 continued to promote effective solutions that are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This program will now run under the name “SDG Innovation Program” following a renaming.

  • As part of Innovate 2030, GLS launched a Sustainability Transformation challenge aimed at supporting healthcare organizations, including nursing homes and hospitals, in their sustainability journey. Participants were tasked with developing a comprehensive consulting concept to address the specific challenges faced by these entities. The challenge aimed to identify real needs, develop a holistic consulting framework and potentially lead to further collaborations or pilot projects.
  • Rossmann was seeking innovative concepts to revolutionize the check-in and check-out experience in its stores, aiming to enhance customer satisfaction and address challenges related to demographic change and workforce shortage.
  • In partnership with Rolex, a major Swiss watchmaking company, we aimed to transform silver coating for watch dials, seeking sustainable, non-toxic solutions. The challenge focused on innovative approaches to eliminate cyanides, extend bath lifespan and enable recyclability or upcycling. The challenge aimed to revolutionize electroplating practices, paving the way for a greener watchmaking industry.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim aimed to utilize AI and generative models in the pharmaceutical sector to develop personalized AI agents, streamlining knowledge management processes for health workers.
  • Solarimo was seeking  solutions to facilitate the re-use of PV modules approaching the end of their regulatory lifespan, aiming to enhance sustainability in the energy sector.

In total, these 5 challenge providers received over 44 submissions from more than 91 researchers and start-ups from over 24 countries.

AI Innovation Program

Exploring data-driven technologies, our AI & Data Science Program saw remarkable progress in areas such as generative AI and business intelligence.
As part of the AI & Data Science Innovation Program in 2023, three challenges were presented.

  • Almi Invest explored integrating AI into the venture capital industry to revolutionize investment decisions.
  • APG sought solutions for personalizing pension information using generative AI to improve customer experience.
  • A multinational retail group called for automated solutions for creating 3D models from object photos in retail, aiming to boost efficiency.

These challenges represented opportunities for innovation at the intersection of AI and various industries, aiming to drive efficiency and improve customer experience.

In total, these 3 challenge providers received over 36 submissions from more than 82 AI pioneers from over 17 countries.


In our HealthTech Program, collaboration with challenge providers such as Bayer and Gerresheimer has led to the exploration of sustainable and digital healthcare solutions.

  • Bayer focused on utilizing innovative technologies to mitigate the health risks of heatwaves, particularly for vulnerable populations. Participants were tasked with developing personalized technological solutions to enhance health and well-being measures during extreme heat events.
  • Simultaneously, Gerresheimer aimed to revolutionize cancer care by enabling home-based treatment through digital services and solutions. Participants were called upon to address the unmet needs of stakeholders across the healthcare value chain, aiming to improve access and convenience for cancer patients receiving therapy outside of traditional medical facilities.

In total, these 2 challenge providers received over 50 submissions from more than 150 healthtech pioneers from over 5 countries. Partners from the last round have also committed there and will participate again in 2024.

Future Materials

The Future Materials Innovation Program provides a collaborative platform for individuals and organizations to innovate in materials science. Last year, the program featured three challenges:

  • Aliaxis challenged participants to develop new adhesive solutions for drinking water systems that meet regulatory standards, ensure compatibility with existing infrastructure, and offer sustainable packaging.
  • Knauf sought innovative sound-absorbing ceiling systems that seamlessly integrate into spaces, eliminate visible seams and joints, and enhance aesthetic appeal.
  • Würth aimed to pioneer groundbreaking facade fastening systems that eliminate thermal bridges, conserve energy, and promote circular economy principles in construction.

In total, these 3 challenge providers received over 41 submissions from more than 60 researchers and start-ups from over 22 countries.

In total, we were able to carry out 25 challenges, integrate over 33 countries and attract over 1,000 innovators to participate.

To give our partners a voice, we recently published a video with them in which they give personal insights into their experiences: ekipa Partner Stories & Insights 2023

Looking ahead, we remain committed to fostering innovative solutions, connecting industries, and shaping a brighter future together. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue our mission to drive innovation and excellence in these exciting sectors.

Thank you for being part of the ekipa community, and here's to an even more inspiring year ahead.

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