Skip to main content

What do intrapreneurs and elite athletes have in common?

Behind the scenes with Bosch Industrial Additive Manufacturing CTO Hendrik Jahnle

Bosch grow IAM Hendrik Jahnle

Always learning new things, never giving up, overcoming challenges as a team: intrapreneurs and elite athletes have a lot in common. That’s why it’s a match made in heaven to have the Bosch Incubator's portfolio team Bosch Industrial Additive Manufacturing (Bosch IAM) develop the new Pole Position Trophy for Formula E. With modern 3D printing and conventional injection molding technology, Bosch is demonstrating the kind of innovative solutions that are possible in the production of plastic parts. In an interview, Bosch IAM CTO Hendrik Jahnle reveals the factors that were crucial for success and why grow platform is the ideal mentor and facilitator for business innovations.

You developed the new trophy for Formula E racers with the fastest qualifying time – the Julius Baer Pole Position Trophy. What is special about this trophy?

We want to demonstrate what is possible with innovative plastics manufacturing. From the very beginning, it was clear to us that we didn’t want to make a shiny object that just looks pretty from a distance. We instead sought to create a trophy that truly had high-tech engineering embedded in it. To make this a reality, we combined 3D printing with conventional injection molding technology. This would be the same approach that might be used to manufacture a sturdy bicycle frame, for example.

The design nevertheless played a crucial role.

Our industrial designer Alexander Voigt worked with great attention to detail in creating the trophy, of course. For example, he made use of satellite data to map the corresponding topographies and represent the racetracks to scale. It’s all the better if you can manage to demonstrate that innovative and functional technology can also look good. However, what ultimately matters to us is that a particular technology is able to fulfill its function.

How important was 3D printing for the creative implementation?

This is something that really only works with 3D printing, a circumstance that represents both a curse and a blessing. Today, 3D printing is often used just for design and not as a functional technology. We wanted to step away from mere plastic parts and in the direction of genuinely functional components that can then also be recycled and have a sustainable product life cycle.

Bosch grow IAM Trophy
Topographies of the countries and race courses
Bosch grow IAM development process
Development process
Bosch grow IAM Trophy
The finished trophy

Does working as a portfolio team within Bosch make it possible for you to implement innovative ideas more easily?

Absolutely. Many companies have the problem that they are very innovative in terms of research and development but simultaneously need to attend to their daily business. When you are developing something new, it is often difficult to sustain it long enough for it to properly develop and mature. This is precisely where I see a great opportunity for grow platform, which brings together development expertise with production experience. Everyone is given the time they need to get things done in a protected space – and to go the distance from initial idea to finished product. This is the only way to achieve quantum leaps in innovation.

What do you see as the greatest advantage of grow platform?

I think the real advantage is this protected space, which isn’t something that is typical for big companies. That’s because developing a new business from an existing one is a very difficult endeavor. It’s unlikely that an ice cream vendor who sells ice cream all day will suddenly open a food truck and begin selling hamburgers. They are occupied throughout the day and don’t have time to spare for any new ideas. To create something new, you have to focus all your energy on it – and grow platform gives us this opportunity.

A start-up is only viable if you have a team that keeps building you up along with all the other members.

Hendrik Jahnle, CTO of Bosch Industrial Additive Manufacturing

And what was your personal benefit of coming to grow platform?

Privately I do sports. I would like to answer with an example from this context.

There are athletes and there are people who push themselves beyond their limits over and over again. These are called high-performance athletes. From the point of view of an athlete, these people are usually "crazy". Who else would do the training workload over and over again? If the (competitive) athlete is successful, he or she is naturally envied and admired. That's exactly what a start-up does to you. It challenges you constantly and always. That's why the learning curve is so steep.

Because I'm a person who always wants to learn new things and keep developing - I need an environment like grow platform. But there is also a risk of getting hurt. It is very important for me that the health of us is in the focus of the grow. Every athlete knows "you can do anything!" is a lie. The greatest value for me from this is this solution: you can achieve anything in a team!

What kind of challenges have you been facing during your journey at grow platform?

I would like to answer it like this. There are moments when you think: Now you've hit rock bottom. Then there are the situations where you look back. To exactly these moments. And you realize how comfortable it was back then.

We've learned there are basically two types of start-up teams. Some have fun and are creative as long as - or short it takes. Then there are the successful start-up teams.

In these teams that are successful, people are willing to outgrow themselves. They have a motivation that borders on insanity to achieve more. Even though there would be less stressful jobs with better salaries elsewhere for these talented people!

An example for me of what challenges I have experienced is: when you can no longer keep your employees because the budget is just too small. The point when you have to decide who is leaving the ship.

Another challenge that always accompanies me is knowing that the vision of the team and the security of the team to achieve it is not present in the counterpart. Thus, we are surrounded by doubters. We always, at all times and everywhere have to fight for our vision. This leaves traces and sometimes you are tired. Therefore, you can only master a start-up if you have a team that always builds you and each other up.

What is generally the decisive factor for the success of a start-up?

From my point of view, it’s good teamwork by far. A start-up is only viable if you have a team that keeps building you up along with all the other members. It’s something quite akin to the world of sports. This also means constantly facing new challenges, learning from experience, and remaining highly committed to the task at hand, of course. Elite athletes have the motivation to constantly go above and beyond in order to reach their goals – and their team supports them in doing this. It’s no different for a start-up.

Bosch grow IAM Trophy

In the race for the future

Bosch is a global partner of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, the world’s first fully electric racing series. With the grow platform portfolio team Bosch IAM, Bosch developed the Julius Baer Pole Position Trophy in addition to innovative electronics and drive technology. The trophy is 3D printed and contains a fiberglass skeleton reinforced industrial plastic that is 100 percent recyclable. Based on the newly developed process, 3D printers are to manufacture plastic parts in volume production in the future – in lasting quality and in a manner that is quick and cost-effective.

Printed by Bosch. Learn more about the story of the Julius Baer Pole Position trophy.

How would you describe your role in your team?

Keeping with the metaphor of the world of sports, you could say that I used to be the coach but that now I’m more the guy who owns the club – and that the team is coaching itself. If you want a team that works autonomously, you need to communicate very clearly that decisions are made independently but that you also take responsibility for them. It was an idea that also crossed the lips of Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility.

And how do you motivate your team to take responsibility?

We create an environment in which everyone has the sense that they are an owner, with each person claiming their own individual share of the success. However, we cannot allow this to become a means to an end for building up pressure and elevating performance. It instead needs to be both honest and authentic. This requires that you have someone who leads the way and truly believes in the project, a person who is able to infect others with enthusiasm and provide inspiration along the way to the ultimate objective. We need to be passionate as a team, pursuing our vision together and being ready to fight for it.

Bosch grow Hendrik Jahnle and the IAM Trophy

What advice would you give to a start-up initiator who is still in the starting blocks?

The key thing is to assemble a great team, then put together a really smart business model, then focus on the team again, then the investors, then the team yet again, and then perhaps the product at some point. Anyone who thinks they have a good product idea is at roughly the same point as an athlete standing outside the Olympic training center. It must be clear that everyone is aware of failing, but is also allowed to admit mistakes and has a lasting breath. That's the experience which will transform them 100 percent. That’s why we embark on the start-up adventure – because you can achieve anything in a team.

We need to strive to make our vision a reality together as a team.

Hendrik Jahnle, CTO of Bosch Industrial Additive Manufacturing

Share this on: