SAP Innovation Center

Cars, garden tools, firewood and junk of all kinds – this usually comes to mind when thinking about a garage. In the IT industry, the word garage evokes different connotations: creativity, innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, successful startups. After all, industry giants such as Apple, HP and SAP once started off small – in a garage, or in the case of SAP, a small house in Weinheim in 1972. However, “back to the roots” would be an insufficient mission statement for the SAP Innovation Center – the first of its kind worldwide. Founded in February 2011 as part of the Products& Innovation organization headed by SAP Executive Board member Bernd Leukert, with one team in Potsdam, and one in Walldorf, it combines the best of both worlds: the creativity and agility of a garage startup and the backbone of a world market leader in business software.

In our day to day work, this is reflected by a couple of guiding principles: as taught by the Design Thinking methodology, the users of our software are at the heart of everything we do. After all, our task is to come up with solutions that help people better manage challenges in their daily business or private lives. As the future end users, our colleagues from our partner companies are indispensable members of our teams for the entire runtime of a project – from ideation to having a ready solution. We believe that this is co-innovation as it should be. Our partners come from various industries and companies of all sizes, from longstanding SAP customers like Charité to early stage startups with no SAP footprint (yet).

With a focus on the in-memory platform SAP HANA, SAP’s cloud and mobile portfolio, we strive to open up new application areas for SAP software which range from personalized cancer therapy to online gaming. For that, we need the brightest minds. Coming from various cultural and academic backgrounds, our highly skilled full-time employees bring a lot of programming expertise combined with a good deal of out of the box thinking to the table. And so do the students and researchers from our partners in research and academia, like the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering, the Berlin universities, the Fraunhofer Institutes, Stanford University or the MIT. This constant input and exchange ensures that we keep up with the latest trends and groundbreaking research concepts to ultimately turn them into software solutions with a real-world impact.In such a fast-paced industry as the IT, short innovation cycles are a must. This is why our projects have runtimes of only a few months on average. Once a prototype solution is up and running at our partner organization, technologically advanced and fun to use, the time is right to hand over to other units in the wider SAP development organization to turn our prototypes into market-ready products. It goes without saying, that our colleagues need to be involved from the very beginning. Last but not least, we recognize that every project is different. Therefore, our working model is kept flexible to adapt to those individual requirements. Static processes have no room at the Innovation Center. Neither do risk aversion and fear of failure. Because it’s not just the triumphs but also the failures and lessons we derive from them, which pave the way to success. This is the mentality that we practice, just like any successful startup.