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German engineering powerhouse Siemens today announced that it has set up an innovation unit named ‘next47’ (as the company was founded back in 1847) to “foster disruptive ideas more vigorously and to accelerate the development of new technologies”, more specifically in the fields of artificial intelligence, blockchain, autonomous machines and what it calls ‘decentralized electrification’.

Effective October 1, 2016, the unit intends to pool all of Siemens’ existing startup activities, fuelled by €1 billion in funding for the first five years.

Siemens CTO Siegfried Russwurm will head the new unit on an acting basis.

“Siemens itself was a startup in 1847 – founded in a rear courtyard in Berlin,” said Joe Kaeser, president and CEO of Siemens. “With next47, we’re living up to our company founder’s ideals and creating an important basis for fostering innovation as we continue Siemens’ development.”

Next47 will have offices in Berkeley, Shanghai and Munich and cover all regions of the world from those locations. It will be open to employees as well as to founders, external startups and established companies if they want to pursue business ideas in the company’s strategic innovation fields.

The first project at next47 will be the ‘electrification of aviation’ (following an agreement with Airbus in April 2016). The two companies aim to demonstrate by 2020 the technical feasibility of hybrid/electric propulsion systems for small planes to medium-sized passenger aircraft.

In the past 20 years, Siemens says it has invested more than €800 million in approximately 180 startups, and that it engages with more than 1,000 startups per year.

In its latest fiscal year, Siemens generated revenue of €75.6 billion and net income of €7.4 billion, with approximately 348,000 employees worldwide.

Featured image credit: Sergey Kohl / Shutterstock

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