“The first question we posed was, ‘What, aside from a brilliant business concept, do young and established firms need to be innovative and successful and to be part of the transition into a digital society?’ The answer was patently obvious: a place for both parties to explore their creativity without limitation; to collaborate and network with universities, international businesses and investors. This fired the starting shot for our very own innovation ecosystem, CODE_n SPACES,” states Ulrich Dietz. The founder and CEO of the GFT Group already got the ball rolling for CODE_n in 2011. Every year since then, the international startup contest, which awards a prize of €30,000, has been hitting the headlines at CeBIT, the world’s biggest IT trade show. And all for the right reasons: The initiative has become a mecca for digital pioneers worldwide. Following in the footsteps of the online platform CODE_n CONNECT, which the GFT Group only recently catapulted from the launch pad, CODE_n SPACES now becomes the next extension to the initiative.
“CODE_n SPACES are extraordinary places for innovative minds to meet up and work together on the digital themes of the future,” states Dietz. The aim is to create an integrated ecosystem for avant-garde thinkers in a convergence of different concepts – from “design thinking” to “co-working” and all the way through to “accelerator activities” – with everything coalescing in a stimulating work environment. This will make the new GFT Corporate Center, which is already shaping up at Schelmenwasenstraße 34 in Stuttgart, decidedly different from conventional office complexes. “We’ve been working with wulf architekten and the internationally renowned designer Tobias Rehberger to come up with an architectural concept and usage scenario that is closely matched to our needs as a company and the demands of young, imaginative firms. It’s about spontaneity and improvisation, but, at the same time, it makes a good impression,” states Dietz. The open-plan office is sectioned off by spacious cubicles, which can be modified and positioned as desired. If people have visitors, they can use the sophisticated reception area or book the conference center.
The office areas for the young companies are just one building block within the CODE_n SPACES concept. There will also be discussion forums, lateral thinking events, and workshops – all designed to stimulate discussion on all kinds of future digital topics and provide the means to network startups with innovation teams at large companies and key players working in business, technology, design, and politics.
The site in Stuttgart will be used by the GFT Group to focus clearly on the topic of Future Mobility. “I consider the aspiration – to develop the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg into an international hotspot for future mobility concepts – a necessity,” states Dietz. The goal of CODE_n SPACES is to forge links between hand-picked startups and partners in trade and industry, as well as the places they turn to for resources, existing initiatives, and any other stakeholders in education and politics – with everything in a neutral place under one roof. To a certain extent, this is tantamount to setting up a Southern Axis (Südschiene) for anything related to innovation.
The GFT Group is receiving support from EnBW, who is jumping on board as a CODE_n strategic partner. The energy company will be presenting with CODE_n at CeBIT under the banner for this year’s contest, which is “Into the Internet of Things.” There are also plans to collaborate closely on CODE_n SPACES. This is a fitting union between the two partners: EnBW has been involved in the concept of electric mobility for years. With over 600 charging stations in and around the city of Stuttgart, it has already set up the biggest vehicle charging network in Germany.
Uli Huener, Head of Innovation Management at EnBW: “Transforming existing business models is now a key task for the future for companies in almost all sectors of industry. To succeed, new partnerships are needed as well as platforms to facilitate exchange. These are two things offered by CODE_n, which is why I’m delighted that EnBW will be collaborating closely in the future with CODE_n – as the key partner in the energy sector.”
Things get underway for CODE_n SPACES in the first quarter of 2015. Between now and then, the GFT Group will announce all key facts on how and under what terms companies can apply to CODE_n SPACES.