Partnering with VDMA to Shape the Next Generation of Industry

Especially here in Germany, there is a lot of talk about Industrie 4.0, bringing manufacturing into the age of sensors, data, and automation. VDMA (the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association) is in a unique position to be steering and supporting their members through this transition. And that’s why we teamed up with VDMA to give their members a taste of how we’re solving industrial problems at wattx.

Everyone (me and my colleagues included) is saying it: the industrial sector worldwide is seeing great change. Specifically, Germany’s famous Mittelstand is feeling new entrants impact the product and technology niche they once owned, new entrants that focus on user-centric that ride on top of the technology. By doing this, these new companies find themselves closer to the user, more able to (quickly) adapt their offerings to match customer needs and even grow their customer base across products, companies, and industries.

But there are support structures in place for this community.

Among them is the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau (the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, in English, and known as VDMA to most). An organization with over 3,200 members, VDMA is Europe’s largest industry association and represents, as it’s name suggests, mechanical engineering companies. As their purpose has long revolved around training and furthering education within the community, their role has expanded given the new young, third party entrants into the industrial sector that are taking advantage of creating, analyzing, and activating data. So, in 2015, VDMA founded the Future Business division to help their members understand new trends and threats that are relevant to their business, as we enter the Age of Automation.

Today, the Future Business division is adapting further. A new initiative, Startup Machine, seeks to connect startups with industrial companies and support joint creation. This initiative reflects a move in the direction of creating hybrid ecosystems, a concept TheBostonConsultingGroup expanded on. As the “the size of the physical economy remains enormous […and] the digital economy still accounts for only 8% of the world’s economic activity […] battles will increasingly be fought in the physical realm.”

Startup Machine will play a crucial role in the hybrid ecosystem, bringing along the companies that provide necessary technology expertise and relationships that are essential to entering this physical realm. As TheBostonConsultingGroup writes: “Hybrid ecosystems face high technological requirements, but in the physical world, where business success often depends on customization, consulting, or enablement, relationships are also important.”

In September, we teamed up with Startup Machine to host a pilot workshop, providing their members with unique content that included wattx’s insights on the landscape of industrial-meets-digital technologies as well as some of the change we are shaping, from the perspectives of IoT technology, data science, and user experience methodologies.

We worked with member companies to answer — and recognize the importance of — questions like:

We’re excited to see the progress of the Startup Machine as it brings together more concretely the physical and digital worlds in alternative ways. We at wattx are also committed to bringing unconventional solutions to traditional business. This is why we shaped wattx the way we have — and why each project we start begins with understanding our users and their needs. The key for us is creating technologies that not only address user needs, but, in doing so, expand business opportunities for the Mittelstand.

Interested in our methodologies or some of the industrial projects wattx works on? Feel free to reach to our Head of Venture Development, Julius Patzelt (

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