25 Corporate incubators to watch in 2021.

Amidst all the headspinning change, an increasing number of enterprises have turned to corporate incubation as a way to strengthen their innovation strategy, explore new revenue streams and gain a first mover advantage.  

To give you a better idea of how REAL incubators all over the world are being used to accelerate growth, increase revenue and innovate from the inside out, here’s our top 25 corporate incubators to watch in 2021.

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1. Lufthansa Innovation Hub (LIH), by Lufthansa Group.

Lufthansa Innovation Hub logo

Industry:
Travel & Mobility Tech

Launched:
2014

Managing Director: 
Gleb Tritus

Headquarters:
Berlin, Germany

Activities: 
Incubation and Investment

LIH’s mission is to drive Lufthansa’s digital transformation and explore new areas for growth that go beyond flying. Their activities include the initiation of strategic partnerships with promising new startups as well as developing innovative in-house digital products and services.

Most LIH startups are focused on meeting traveller needs and pain points as well as elevating their customer experience. The team has a wide variety of skills and expertise, including serial founders, venture capitalists, business strategists, and tech analysts. They design digital business models, invest in promising tech startups, and identify valuable new growth areas to grow Lufthansa’s digital capabilities.

Notable Ventures:

  • Compensaid: A platform that enables users to offset their carbon footprint using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
  • Rydes: An app that rewards its users every time they travel (e.g. bus, intercity rail, e-scooter, taxi and even when they ride a bike).
  • Hopper: Machine learning and AI that predicts flight and hotel prices, and offers personalised recommendations for optimal booking times.
  • Yilu: Consolidates the travel and mobility services from a variety of providers to give travellers a seamless travel experience.

2. RBC Ventures, by The Royal Bank of Canada.

Industry:
Banking & Fintech

Launched:
2018

Head of RBC Ventures & Corporate Development
Mike Dobbins

Headquarters:
Toronto, Canada

Activities: 
M&A, Acceleration, Incubation and Investments

RBC Ventures was built to attract new clients through meaningful solutions. They think, act and operate like a startup while exploring new ideas that cater to unmet consumer needs. In a nutshell, they build new ventures, buy startups and partner-up with organisations that can help them reach their goals. 

Part of their mission since 2018 is to attract 5 million users in the space of 5 years through various new digital offerings. Their end goal is to convert 10% of those users into RBC banking clients. As described by Mike Dobbins, Head of Ventures and Corporate Development:

“My goal today is to build wonderful products that lots of people find useful. And if we get that right, I believe we have the pathways to grow more core clients.”

Notable Ventures:

  • Drive – An app that enables users to stay up-to-date on car maintenance, book service appointments and receive exclusive offers.

  • Dr.Bill – A medical billing app that offers support to simplify the way physicians manage medical billing.

  • Boomerang – A social platform aimed at boomers looking to learn new skills and connect with their community through interactive skill-sharing experiences.

3. The Lab (formerly Capital One Labs), by Capital One.

The Lab

Industry:
Banking & Fintech

Launched:
2012

Head of Product & Strategy
Zee Aznaurashvili

Offices:
N.Y. & Washington, U.S.A.

Activities: 
M&A, Acceleration, Incubation and Investments

The Lab’s mission is to inspire collaboration, innovation, and a more entrepreneurial mindset within Capital One – using prototyping and design thinking. They focus on ventures with short term impact (e.g. 6 months to 3 years), including innovative engineering solutions, customer experiences, and new offerings that reimagine banking through machine learning and virtual payments.

Concepts stem from different lab sources, including employees, business partners, and hackathon champions. Once approved, new ideas move quickly from early-stage exploration to a development pipeline that includes validation, checks and approvals along the way. This helps ensure project success rates.

Notable Ventures:

Here are just a few of the projects The Lab is currently working on:

  • A new platform for machine learning to make model development simpler while saving in infrastructure management costs. 
  • A reimagined payment card with advanced functionalities to elevate the purchasing experience.
  • An internal data visualisation tool to enhance the fraud detection process.

4. Store N°8 by Walmart.

N08 Company Holder

Industry:
Retail

Launched:
2017

Head of Incubation
Jaya Balasubramaniam

Headquarters:
Hoboken, NJ

Activities: 
M&A, Acceleration, Incubation and Investments

Store Nº8 focuses on developing capabilities to transform the future of retail through new digital, physical and virtual experiences. They incubate concepts and partner with entrepreneurs, early-stage startups, VCs and academics to innovate, using VR, AR, machine learning, and AI. 

The goal is to have a fast-moving, separate entity to identify emerging technologies that can be developed and used across Walmart.

Notable Ventures:

  • ASPECTIVA – A platform that mines customer reviews using machine learning to process customer sentiment, rate each product feature, and enable search by customer intent.
  • Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) – A lab that tests AI-enabled processes, services, and experiences inside Walmart.
  • In-Home – Offers seamless, unlimited deliveries with no added fees or tips.
Store N°8 by Walmart Inhome

5. Chemovator by Basf.

chemovator Company Holder

Industry:
Chemicals

Launched:
2018

Head of Chemovator:
Markus Bold

Headquarters:
Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Activities: 
Incubation

Chemovator tests early-stage business ideas and explores unconventional growth opportunities. It delivers de-risked and investable business plans for BASF to internalise or spin-off. The company employs a startup mindset that is fast, lean, and customer-focused.

Through Chemovator, Basf provides a separate space for teams to build commercial ventures from unconventional ideas. The approach enables project leads to take ownership of their ideas, test them, learn fast and pivot outside of corporate boundaries.

Notable Ventures:

  • BOXLAB – A tailor-made solution that improves the supply chain processes in the chemical industry by reducing waste, costs and complexity. 
  • 1000 Satellites – Addresses the problem of long commutes with co-working spaces for small cities in rural areas.
  • faCellitate – They make polymeric surface coatings that enable the cultivation of cells for biomedical research, e.g. stem cell and cancer research, pharma and toxicology.
chemovator_pitch

6. Area 120 by Google.

area-120-google

Industry:
Technology

Launched:
2016

Head of Area 120:
Michelle Gonzalez

Headquarters:
San Francisco, USA

Activities: 
Incubation and Investment

Area 120 is Google’s own version of an in-house corporate incubator, built to encourage innovative projects (and in case you were wondering, yes; the name does hint at the 20% rule). As described by former Managing Director Alex Gawley:

“We built a place and a process to be able to have those folks come to us and then select what we thought were the most promising teams, the most promising ideas, the most promising markets…”

What makes Area 120 different than other Google initiatives (e.g. Google X, Advanced Technology and Products Group (ATAP) is that they pursue projects within Google’s core business. Their ideas and founders come directly from internal staff as opposed to external sources.   

Projects that are green-lit by Area 120 have to pass a “toothbrush test”, which alludes to the need for products to be a necessity for users, used at least twice a day (like a toothbrush). Under this paradigm, their long-term goal is to launch businesses that will eventually match the scale and success of Google.

Notable Ventures:

  • Tangi – An app that inspires mobile users with snackable video content about art, cooking beautiful and other DYI projects. 
  • Fundo – A virtual events platform for creators. 
  • Byteboard – Enables companies to conduct better remote interviews.
  • AdLingo – Intelligent display ads that use AI to connect with customers.
Area 120 By Google

7. Leo Innovation Lab by Leo Pharma.

Leo Innovation Lab

Industry:
Pharmaceuticals

Launched:
2015

CEO:
Kristian Schrøder Hart-Hansen

Headquarters:
Copenhagen, Denmark

Activities: 
Acceleration, Incubation and Investments

LEO Innovation Lab is an independent unit, established by LEO Pharma as part of a long-term strategic decision to focus on patient needs. They are innovating to improve the lives of people with chronic skin conditions – not with medical treatments but through digital solutions. They do this by looking at the aspects of everyday life that affects a person with a skin condition.

Notable Ventures:

  • Klikkit – A smart button solution that helps the elderly follow treatments.
  • Nøie – Customized skincare products to deal with specific skin issues.

8. 1886Ventures (formerly Lab 1886), by Daimler.

1886Ventures

Industry:
Automotive

Launched:
2007

Director and Managing Partner:
Susanne Hahn

Headquarters:
Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Activities: 
Incubation, Acceleration and Investments

The recently reorganised 1886Ventures aims to unleash the potential of “next technologies” to build ventures that contribute to a sustainable and profitable future for its clients and partners.

Working together with the global software provider GFT and Daimler as its partner, the company created an ecosystem that fosters projects to address rapid industry changes. The new approach still places value on the innovation and ideation process but will include more acceleration and commercialisation efforts as well.

Notable Ventures:

  • Car2go – (Now SHARENOW) the app enables users to reserve and rent a car via a cost-free smartphone app, anytime and at a low cost.
  • Moovel – A platform to help transit agencies acquire and retain customers.
  • MercedesMe – Keeps you in touch with your vehicle at all times.
1886 Ventures Daimler truck

9. Hub:raum by Deutsche Telekom.

Industry:
Telecom

Launched:
2012

Managing Director:
Axel Menneking

Headquarters:
Berlin, Germany and Krakow, Poland

Activities: 
M&A, Acceleration, Incubation and Investments

Hubraum is the tech incubator of Deutsche Telekom. By bringing early-stage startups and the leading European telco together, Hubraum strives to ignite innovation and create new business opportunities for both sides. Startups benefit from co-innovation programs, seed-investments, tech assets and knowledge. In return, Deutsche Telekom benefits from new business opportunities.

Notable Ventures:

  • Contiamo – A flexible data platform that enables businesses to create interactive, data-driven decision tools.
  • Blinkist – A book-summarizing subscription service.
  • Flexperto – Online consulting software.
  • Reparando – mobile cell phone repair service.
Tech Meetup: hub:raum

10. Rabo Frontier Ventures by Rabobank.

Rabo Frontier ventures

Industry:
FinTech and AgTech

Launched:
2018

Managing Director:
Harrie Vollaard

Headquarters:
Utrecht, The Netherlands

Activities: 
M&A, Incubation and Investment

Rabo Frontier Ventures is part of a broader innovation plan, in which internal and external food & agri-ventures are supported to scale their business. Rabobank provides them capital, non-financial support like access to their customers, expertise and access to networks. Their goal is to transform the Agri-industry (AgTech) by building sustainable and future-proof business models to stay on top of the rapid changes in the industry.

Notable Ventures:

  • Tellow – A bookkeeping app for freelancers. 
  • Peaks – Lets users invest spare change. 
  • Tide – A solution to simplify company expenses.
  • Komgo – A digital network to facilitate global trade.
Rabo Frontier Ventures Banner

11. Kamet Ventures by Axa.

Kamet Ventures

Industry:
Insurance, Health & Mobility Tech

Launched:
2016

Co-founder & Managing Director:
Michaël Niddam

Headquarters:
Paris, France

Activities: 
Acceleration and Incubation

Kamet Ventures builds ventures aimed at redefining the sectors of Insurtech, Digital Health, and Mobility. Their approach includes identifying gaps in the market, validating new concepts, carrying out extensive ethnographic and data research, and partnering with world-class entrepreneurs to create and scale companies that will lead in their respective industries.

Notable Ventures:

  • Qare – A provider high-quality telemedicine services.
  • Padoa – offers tools to enhance efficiency and agility while enabling the development of a holistic prevention health policy for employees.
  • Fixter – Enables users to access reliable services from over 500 independent garages in the UK.
Axa Kamet

12. Leonard by Vinci.

Leonard by Vinci

Industry:
Construction

Launched:
2017

Managing Director:
Julien Villalongue

Headquarters:
Paris, France

Activities: 
Acceleration and Incubation

Leonard is the VINCI Group’s innovation and foresight platform. Set up to invent and serve the group’s future business activities, Leonard is in charge of tracking emerging trends, identifying long-term challenges and goals, pinpointing opportunities for change in the group’s businesses and organisational structure, identifying new growth drivers and developing innovative project incubation and acceleration programmes open to both group employees and startups.

Notable Ventures:

  • Kenzen – Provides safety monitoring solutions to predict and prevent industrial worker injury and illness.
  • Hiboo – Helps collect, standardise, and activate the equipment data needed to run worksites.
  • Homeys – enables users to regulate their energy usage.
Leonard By Vinci

13. C-Lab by Samsung.

C-lab

Industry:
Consumer Electronics

Launched:
2012

VP and Head of Creativity & Innovation:
Inkuk Hahn

Headquarters:
Suwon-si, South Korea

Activities: 
Incubation, Acceleration and Investments

C-Lab is an in-house idea incubation program that encourages a creative corporate culture and nurtures innovative ideas from Samsung employees. C-Lab inside incubates promising concepts from within Samsung and C-Lab outside supports external entrepreneurs. 

The C-Lab spin-off policy (introduced in 2015) helps Samsung employees who have successfully completed C-Lab projects to launch their own start-ups. Samsung supports the spin-off companies through seed money investment and business consulting to accelerate their growth while guaranteeing their independent management. 

So far, C-Lab has supported over 220 projects.

Notable Ventures:

  • SelfieType – An invisible AI-powered keyboard. 
  • Circulus – An AI company that built Pibo, a home companion robot.  
  • VTOUCH – Enables users to control multiple devices from a distance simply by pointing at them.
  • Smoothy – A group video calling app.
  • WELT – A smart belt that tracks activity and reduced fall risk.
CLab by Samsung

14. Samsung Next by Samsung.

Industry:
Digital Technology

Launched:
2013

Director:
Christina Bechhold Russ

Offices:
Silicon Valley, Berlin, New York, San Fransisco, Tel Aviv and Korea

Activities: 
M&A, Incubation, Acceleration and Investments

Samsung NEXT focuses on creating new software and services businesses and platforms. Teams develop ideas into products, grow products into companies, and scale businesses with the power to transform the future of software.

Their ventures are often driven by shifts in consumer behaviour, new technologies, a new platform reaching critical mass, interfaces becoming intuitive or new distribution channels being identified – or a combination of these factors.

Notable Ventures:

  • Intuition Robotics – A digital companion company.
  • Figure1 – Connects healthcare professionals around the world to share medical cases.
  • Cylera – Protects and optimises the medical devices that healthcare providers rely on.
Samsung Next by Samsung.

15. W-Labs by Whirlpool.

Industry:
Home Appliances

Launched:
2011

General Manager:
Doug Searles

Headquarters:
Michigan, U.S.A.

Activities: 
Incubation and Acceleration

W-Labs seeks to identify unique consumer pain points that lead to new products. A “microfactory” is used to create products on a small scale, react quickly to feedback, and gradually improve the product design efficiently.

The W-Labs team brings together a diversity of backgrounds, including business, engineering, tech, finance, marketing, consumer insights, and procurement. Employees are encouraged to think outside the box, have an entrepreneurial mindset and learn by creating innovative new offerings.

Notable Ventures:

  • W-Labs Smart Oven – An easy-to-use oven with various smart features. 
  • Zera – A food recycling solution that turns waste into fertiliser.
  • Vessi – A home brewing solution for beer enthusiasts.

16. Grow by Robert Bosch.

grow bosch

Industry:
Engineering & Technology

Launched:
2013

Innovation Lead:
Birte Moyé

Headquarters:
Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Activities: 
Incubation and Acceleration

Grow is a platform for startups and an open space for intrapreneurs inside of Bosch. They come up with innovative ideas to develop new, sustainable and profitable ventures in new markets. 

Grow provides its startups with access to infrastructure, expertise, talent, partnerships and other resources. They are financed by Bosch and supported by the Grow platform team from preparation through incubation and scaling, empowering startup teams to transform their ideas into new businesses.

Notable Ventures:

  • AquaEasy – An AI-based solution that aims to reduce costs and risks for shrimp farmers.
  • Bima – A smart grid that makes energy more reliable, affordable and sustainable. 
  • Cerix – Aims to improve products with the aid of technical ceramics.
Bosch Smartgrow

17. Thales Digital Factory, by Thales.

thales digital factory logo

Industry:
Digital Technology

Launched:
2017

Head of Digital Factory:
Caroline Vignollet

Offices:
Paris, France and Montreal, Canada

Activities: 
Acceleration, Incubation and Investment

Thales Digital Factory was launched to accelerate Thales’ digital transformation in five core areas: aerospace, space, ground transportation, defence and security. The aim is not only to create and accelerate new ventures but also to create a cultural shift within Thales.

The Digital Factory is hosted inside Station F in Paris and has around 11 startups that, in most cases, will be handed over to existing business units.

Notable Ventures:

  • Heropolis – helping organisations manage safety and security. 
  • NanoLock – An embedded flash-to-Cloud defence for IoT and Connected Devices.
  • Crypto Quantique – Seamless and easy-to-use security for IoT devices.
Thales Digital Factory

18. Springboard by Kraft Heinz.

springboard logo

Industry:
Food & Beverage

Launched:
2018

Headquarters:
Chicago, U.S.A.

Activities: 
Acceleration, Incubation and Investment

The program was created to turn startups with disruptive products and brands into thriving businesses in the food and beverage industry.

Companies invited into the incubator program are given a unique opportunity with an abundance of tools and resources to help make their goals a reality. They nurture, scale, and accelerate the growth of disruptive startups in their industry.

Notable Ventures:

  • Blakes Seed Based – Seed-based, allergen-free snacks that are accessible to everyone.
  • Brami – A bean-based snack with fewer calories, carbs, fat and sugar.
  • Ka-Pop! – Vegan, allergen-free snacks made of ancient grains.
  • Origin Almond – Uses cold-press technology to extract the liquid essence of almonds.
Springboard by Kraft Heinz.

19. Space Green by Naver.

space green logo

Industry:
Digital Tech

Launched:
2017

Headquarters:
Paris, France

Activities: 
Acceleration, Incubation and Investment

Space Green is a consumer-focused startup program that brings together strong, talented entrepreneurs who are committed to disrupting the status quo.

The program is housed in Station F, the world’s largest startup campus located in Paris – giving entrepreneurs access to a vibrant community of over 1000 startups, and 40 venture capital investors.

Notable Ventures:

  • Bruno – A financial Wellness app for millennials.
  • Bitwage – Payroll and HR services for the digital era. 
  • Powder – Video editing for gamers.
  • Targo – Creates various VR experiences.
Space Green by Naver.

20. Incubator Program Office by Michelin.

Industry:
Mobility

Launched:
2014

Headquarters:
France

Activities: 
Incubation

The Incubator Program Office covers projects linked to three strategic fields (excluding tires): Services and Solutions, Mobility Experiences and High-tech Materials. The role is to detect projects that could support future growth and develop them in a lean fashion.

Some ideas are turned into Business Units, and others accelerated to become products. Every project is sponsored by a Michelin business unit director and has a strong link to the industry.

Notable Ventures:

  • ResiCare – develops and sells a high-performance resin adhesive for industrial applications.
  • AraNea – A solution that reinforces the properties of concrete and reduces its carbon footprint.
  • DDI – Provides smart, predictive data anticipate breakdowns and keep drivers safe.
Incubator Program Office by Michelin

21. J-Labs by Johnson & Johnson.

J-Lab Logo

Industry:
Life Sciences

Launched:
2012

Head of Innovation:
Melinda Richter

Offices:
Canada, China and the U.S.A.

Activities: 
Acceleration, Incubation and Investment

Johnson & Johnson Innovation or JLABS is a global network of open innovation ecosystems. They work with innovators across a broad healthcare spectrum, including pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Their goal is to provide the optimal environment for emerging companies to catalyse growth and optimise their research and development. They focus on consumer and health tech sectors that create and accelerate the delivery of life-saving, life-enhancing solutions to patients around the world.

Notable Ventures:

  • Callmidwife.com – Web-based and mobile app for pregnant women.
  • SNAStack – software that helps scientists more easily access and analyse clinical data.
  • SunCayr – Helping people understand the effects of overexposure to UV rays.
J-Labs by Johnson & Johnson.

22. Ford X by Ford.

Ford X Logo

Industry:
Mobility

Launched:
2018

Director:
Don Campbell

Offices:
Canada, The U.S. and The U.K.

Activities: 
M&A, Incubation and Investments

Ford X is Ford Mobility’s venture incubator. They unite entrepreneurs, designers and engineers to envision, build and validate new mobility ventures and business models to shape the future of transportation.

The incubator’s focus areas include mobility as well as autonomous, connected and electric vehicles.

Notable Ventures:

  • FindyourFord.com – A platform that makes it easier for users to buy a used car.
  • Spin – An electric scooter app.
Ford X by Ford.

23. Albert Heijn Labs, by Albert Heijn.

ALbert Heijn Labs logo

Industry:
Supermarket

Launched:
2018

Headquarters:
The Netherlands

Activities: 
M&A, Incubation and Investments

Albert Heijn Labs uses the lean startup method to work on new concept and innovation. Most of these initiatives create knowledge that can be brought back to Albert Heijn’s core business.

For some projects, the Lab partners up with other businesses such as an Achmea (insurance), Bol.com (online retail) and Samsung (refrigerators).

Notable Ventures:

  • Robot Delivery – Robots that deliver groceries to your door.
  • AH Ouderenproject – an app that makes it easier for the elderly to shop online.
  • KnoopKnop – Enables you to add ingredients to your shopping cart on ah.nl at the touch of a button.
Bezorg robot AH

24. The Unilever Foundry, by Unilever.

Industry:
Consumer Goods

Launched:
2014

Global Head:
Bahram Saidieh

Headquarters:
London, England

Activities: 
Acceleration, Incubation and Investments

Unilever Foundry works with pioneering startups to identify and accelerate partnership opportunities on a global scale. They identify and leverage the latest technologies from around the world to solve business challenges and innovate. 

Their areas of focus include digital marketing, ad tech, enterprise tech, eCommerce, business model innovation and social impact.

Notable Ventures:

  • Yummly – A smart cooking sidekick that provides personalised recipe recommendations.
  • Helpling – An online booking and payment platform that connects customers with pre-vetted local cleaners.
  • Skupos – Data analytics for the retail industry.
Yummly by The Unilever Foundry, by Unilever.

25. Main Incubator by Commerzbank.

main incubator logo

Industry:
Fintech & Banking

Launched:
2013

Founder & Director:
Matthias Lais

Headquarters:
Frankfurt, Germany

Activities: 
Acceleration, Incubation and Investments

Main Incubator GmbH is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Commerzbank. It’s an R&D unit that focuses on emerging technologies such as blockchain, big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, biometrics, robotics, virtual reality, wearables, IoT and quantum computing.

By developing their own prototypes and investing in promising startups, Main Incubator is proactively building new ventures and helping Commerzbank stay on top of its industry.

Notable Ventures:

  • Circula – A tool for digital travel expense accounting. 
  • TillHub – Combines POS functions with digital accounting.
  • Conpend – Fintech tool to automate trade finance compliance checks.
Main Incubator by Commerzbank.

Corporate incubation as part of your innovation strategy.

Corporate incubators come in all shapes and sizes and are a great tool for innovation in almost every industry. We hope that this list of examples gave you a taste of how real incubators work and add value to businesses. After all, there’s no better proof of concept than seeing them in action. 

If you’re thinking about using corporate incubation to strengthen your corporate strategy, check out these 10 key steps.

We can help you set up your corporate incubator from strategy to set up and execution.

Get the Corporate Incubator Toolkit.

3 Resources with inspiring examples, venturing models, and insights in one downloadable pack.

Leyash Pillay

Leyash Pillay

Content Lead