The world is facing massive challenges, which many new companies are eager to solve. COWI and global start-up accelerator and venture fond Plug and Play are launching a pilot programme that lets start-ups join forces with COWI's discipline specialists and business developers to explore sustainable and innovative solutions.
Huge-scale storage of green energy. Managing wastewater using artificial intelligence. Intuitive digital overview of the environmental impact of building materials.
That is a small sample of the innovative services and products offered by the start-ups that COWI has selected for the consulting company's new pilot programme, COWI Co-Creator.
"At COWI, we are deeply aware that we can't find the answers to the great challenges in the world on our own. We believe that new sustainable solutions are best forged in collaborations – with customers, partners and perhaps especially young innovative companies. The Co-Creator programme is a way for our experienced consultants to help small businesses mature their ideas and gain valuable input to new ways of thinking and working. And hopefully, COWI gains a new partner in the long term, creating even more value for our customers," says Charlotte Søgaard, Innovation Director at COWI.
The intention behind the Co-Creator programme is to accelerate the commercialisation of solutions to some of the largest challenges of the future, such as the transition to green energy and the threats to global society resulting from climate change.
From 80 start-ups to eight
In other words, Co-Creator is fully in line with the COWI Group's new strategy, FUTURE-NOW, which states that all company activities must promote a more sustainable world.
Together with Plug and Play, COWI has identified a number of start-ups across the world that are involved in the most interesting solutions and invited them to join the programme. The screening identified 80 promising start-ups, and an elimination race narrowed down the field to the top eight.
Over the course of ten weeks from September to November, these eight start-ups will complete an intensive pilot programme, working closely with relevant experts and business developers from COWI. They are given the task of maturing and testing a solution to a specific problem with input from one or more relevant customers to be identified by the pilot team.
This year's edition of the Co-Creator programme culminates on 28 November when the eight pilots will present their findings to a hand-picked audience consisting of relevant COWI customers and partners as well as representatives from private and public foundations interested in sponsoring the road from idea to reality.
Collaborations create value for both parties
COWI has a successful track record of developing early collaborations with start-ups into long-lasting partnerships. That is the case with Woodsense, which COWI teamed up with in a previous accelerator programme, Urbantech.
Woodsense offers smart sensors for measuring moisture in timber used for structures.
"The concern about moisture in hidden timber structures has so far meant that people were hesitant to use timber in large-scale buildings projects. Thanks to our partnership with Woodsense, we are able to propose their technology when submitting tenders, thereby nudging projects in a more sustainable direction," says Charlotte Søgaard.
The collaboration with start-ups does not only benefit customers. In general, new start-ups are inherently digital and sustainable, so working closely with start-up environments has helped drive the consulting engineering company's own digitalisation and green agenda.
"There's no doubt in my mind that joining forces with start-ups has accelerated COWI's digital development and played a part in making our business mindset more agile. When you combine the agility, creativity and willingness to take risks of start-ups with the management structure and customer base of large companies, you create an ideal environment for radical innovation," says Charlotte Søgaard.
The event on 28 November will formally conclude this year's Co-Creator programme, and COWI is already planning to continue the programme next year.
Read more about the chosen eight start-ups: