Airbus to Allianz, Daimler to Dior … What are some of Europe’s most innovative businesses up to?

February 15, 2019

I spend much of my time travelling around Europe, working with the leaders of the continents most innovative companies. From my home in West London, a home to corporate giants like GSK and Unilever, I embrace the passion of Madrid where I’m a professor at the business school, with an eclectic range of entrepreneurs like EcoAlf and Wollapop, to the digitally reinvented Berlin, full of fintech pioneers like Number26 , to the cool of Copenhagen with Bjarke Ingels and Mikkel Bjorgso.

So what are these companies up to. Here is a random snapshot of their innovations in action:

AB InBev

1. AB InBev partnered with Civic, an identity app, to dispense beer from a vending machine in the US using the app to verify that the buyer is over the legal drinking age of 21.

2. AB InBev harnessed digital technologies to run a weather-dependent advertising campaign for Stella Artois Cidre. Using weather data, the ads were displayed as soon as there was a two-degree rise in temperature, targeting customers at the moment they were susceptible to buy.

3. AB InBev recently installed GAME (global asset management for enterprises) for returnable transport items with specific configurations for brewery operations. Leveraging RFID tags and a network of RFID readers and antennas throughout the brewery allowed AB InBev to capture invaluable real-time data and business intelligence to significantly improve efficiency throughout the supply chain.


1. Skywise is an aviation open-data platform developed by Airbus that enables the digitalization transformation of the aviation value chain.

2. Airbus was involved in the Heritage Open Source project that allowed non-profit and charitable organizations to accept donations in cryptocurrency.

3. Airbus makes use of advanced inspection drones to reduce its aircraft inspection times and enhance inspection quality.


1. Allianz Worldwide Care launched a new AI-powered symptom checker as part of its MyHealth app. The AI checker anonymously asks questions about members’ medical conditions and provides a preliminary evaluation of their symptoms to assess whether or not medical treatment is needed.

2. Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) implemented a blockchain prototype for a global ‘captive’ insurance program including cash transfer between countries.

3. Allianz & Praedicat’s software solution ChemMeta, which delivers science and regulatory risk analytics for industrial companies, uses machine learning and AI to identify emerging product risks.


1. Bayer’s Nexavar (Sorafenib) tablets: the first approved targeted therapy for kidney and liver cancer (multi-kinase inhibitor).

2. Eylea is Bayer’s approved new option for treatment of age-related macular degeneration (eye disease leading to blindness).

3. Xarelto: approved for the prevention of venous thromboembolism and stroke in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation.

4. Bayer closed partnerships with strategically important suppliers in order to be able to market biotech medications in a safer and quicker way using innovative primary packaging solutions.


1. BMW was the first manufacturer worldwide to introduce a fully-variable valve lift system in its Valvetronic engine in the BMW 316ti. The new engine delivered a maximum output of 115 horsepower.

2. The BMW IFTTT (if this then that) app helps customers connect web services to everyday objects. One of the IFTTT functions automatically sends a text message to your children as soon as your car is near their school.

3. The BMW’s iDrive system was inspired by the video game industry. The iDrive system is a solution to operate a relatively complex navigation in a simple way, while still being able to keep your eyes on the road.


1. In Carrefour’s 2022 plan, it shares its transformation plan to adapt its model and organization to become the world leader in food transition.

2. In 2018, Carrefour was awarded the David with Goliath prize for the best alliance and collaboration with the startup company Phénix to tackle food wastage.

3. Aquellefrequence, is an information system developed by Carrefour to help its indecisive customers decide which food to buy.


1. Daimler is partnering up with the Fraunhofer NeuroLab to develop emotionally sensitive brain-computer interfaces. These intuitive assistance systems can identify drivers’ emotions and anticipate.

2. Daimler is going all-in on community-based parking in Stuttgart. As vehicles drive by, they collect information about free parking spaces and forward this on to other vehicles with app-assisted parking.

3. In 2017, Daimler was the first to engage in an autonomous vehicles project in Shanghai. This trial project uses autonomous vehicles to power public transit and are being tested on the road under real-life conditions.


1. The brand launched a new experience via Facebook Messenger called Dior Insider, an AI beauty assistant platform launched to build a stronger connection to Dior’s target consumers.

2. Christian Dior brings cushion compact technology to luxury cosmetics by partnering up with AmorePacific.

3. Dior incorporated virtual reality glasses into its brand image with the aim of giving its customers an extra incentive to visit their stores. Dior also developed Dior Eyes so that viewers can explore behind the scenes at their fashion shows.


1. GSK uses digital in their product packaging, leveraging new data streams for gathering information about products after they leave the warehouse.

2. GSK was involved in the development of the Kids MD app currently used in Boston Children’s Hospital. It is part of a plan to bring routine, reliable medical guidance quickly to young consumers who cannot read, through voice instead of text-based content.

ING Bank

1. ING has developed Katana Lens, a tool that optimizes bond pricing by using AI to assist trading and investment decisions, cutting trading costs by 25%.

2. ING has opened a developer portal to accelerate innovation by working more closely with external developers, giving them access to selected, simulated ING API’s they can use to jointly create a new customer experience.

3. The UK-based Yolt app allows users to manage their money matters with different banks for different financial services in one place. They are expending to France and Italy as part of ING’s ambition to build a pan-European money platform. Yolt has grown from 100,000 to 250,000 users in 3 months.

4. The new payments platform (NPP) is a payment system that allows customers to move money between accounts in real time.

5. Payconiq is an all-in-one payment app that allows users to make direct payments online, in-store and P2P. Conceived and launched by ING, Payconiq is now supported by a handful of other banks. In Belgium, Payconiq is connected to over 45,000 merchants.

6. Payvision provides one global payment solution by combining 80 of the world’s most popular local payment methods. Payvision processes over 100 million transactions a year.


1. L’Oreal scientists designed Le Teint Particulier, a process whereby custom foundation shades are created using face-scanning technology.

2. The Chimex plant won the Pierre Potier Prize – awarded to companies that have developed a clean chemical product or procedure – for its quinoa extraction process.

3. €850 million, or 3.3% of sales, are invested in research and innovation, and 3,862 employees are devoted to the task.


1. Nestlé partnered with Amazon to make use of its virtual assistant technology Alexa. Using a combination of voice automation and visual browsing, the new platform developed will provide users with healthy recipes based on voice commands.

2. Fried noodles without frying. Nestlé’s 2-minute noodles with 25% less salt and 75% less fat are the result of innovative thinking.

3. Nestlé scientists discovered a way to restructure sugar using natural ingredients, so that with 40% less sugar, chocolate products such as Milkybar are still sweet.


1. Novartis Summarizer, an IBM Watson technology, is the first cognitive computing platform that understands, reasons and learns.

2. Novartis was the world’s first major pharmaceutical company to announce an alliance to develop chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies for cancer. This treatment marked the first time a gene therapy to treat cancer in children and young adults was approved by the FDA.

3. Novartis is making use of AI software to analyze cell images. The goal is to cut the time required to determine the properties and characteristics of new compounds.


1. Shorter scanning times, improved image quality: with the new parallel imaging method CAIPIRINHA, Siemens has taken the technology of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) a huge step forward. Siemens Healthineers use the technique in many MRI scanner models.

2. Siemens developed algorithms that catapult product design and production into the future. The algorithm creates lattice structures that contain 100,000 times more geometric primitives than previously possible in design systems. Completely new shapes can be designed and produced as a result.

3. Siemens developed a new measurement system for use in high-voltage applications. Unlike previous devices, this new measurement system needs no electrical supply of its own to measure the voltage and current over transmission lines.


1. Persil Powergems is a new kind of detergent that is neither powder nor liquid. It is a new substance with the power to clean, freshen and care in one, the three benefits consumers look for most in a laundry product.

2. Recent Unilever innovations, Knorr Natural & Hellmann’s Organic, play upon the growing demand for natural and authentic products.

3. Unilever has found a way to make ice cream healthier (less sugar and fat) using ice structuring proteins.

4. Unilever’s R&D has pioneered a process that extracts the natural ‘essence’ from pressed leaves to enhance the flavour of the tea blend.

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