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Given the chance to present a business idea or business model to the chairman or managing director of a major company or world market leader, which company founder would not feel an extra buzz of adrenalin? The competition for new businesses – staged annually by the Knowledge Factory in cooperation with a business newspaper – does just that, giving the winners an opportunity to take part in a networking weekend with company bosses. It is a matter of importance to Franz Fehrenbach, chairman of the Bosch board of management, to make time for company founders and to share knowledge and experience with the competition winners and furnish them with advice in workshops and conversations. The competition panel selects up to nine founders each year to attend these events.
Even those who don't win the competition have the chance to get support from the companies participating in the Knowledge Factory. The company network's mentoring program selects a personal mentor from its member companies who then takes on responsibility for supervising the young entrepreneur over a longer period. After being selected by the Knowledge Factory, the company founder and mentor work together to develop solutions for a successful company start-up, with the mentor providing the founder with access to the entire knowledge network in the Knowledge Factory. If the start-up records its first successes within three years of its participation in the mentoring program, the boss of the new company can also become a mentor, thus enabling his or her experience to be passed on, too.
“Who wants to drill a hole in the concrete wall?” Senior trainer Laszlo Kunfalvi, from the technical-industrial training program at the Bosch Leinfelden location, looks at the group expectantly. It's not his apprentices he's talking to, but five- and six-year-old girls and boys wearing huge protective goggles. Children don't usually come into contact with life at real companies and most have only seen factories in pictures or films. To ensure that children are not scared in any way, and to introduce them to the working world at an early age, Bosch invites kindergartens and schools to take part in on-site tours as part of its educational partnerships. While there, the children are even allowed to try out drills for themselves.
Bosch apprentices are also involved in these educational partnerships – they supervise the children as they try out different tools and develop practical projects and workshops with school classes. The schoolchildren will work with up-and-coming industrial mechanics to build a complete wind turbine, including LED lighting, for example. This kind of project work is extremely motivating and beneficial for apprentices. It involves them setting their own goals and taking a step outside their everyday routine. Working closely with schoolchildren from a different age group also helps strengthen their sense of responsibility and social skills. And the children are delighted to be learning something new – without even having to go to school.
The tool boxes contain glue, wood, screws, wire, saws, and files. Eugen Class fires the children's imagination by setting them a task: “Imagine you are on a desert island and have to build a house or a bridge.” Within seconds, the children are all wanting to get their hands on the KiTec tool boxes. KiTec stands for “Kinder entdecken Technik” (children discovering technology), and it is one of the most popular programs in the Knowledge Factory. However, before the children can get started with any kind of designing, inventing, or building, they are all shown how to use the tools and are given a “tool license” to prove they know what they are doing. After all, safety remains a top priority despite the focus on fun and creativity.
Salzgitter is just one of over 40 cities in which member companies of the Knowledge Factory make these technology boxes – specially developed by scientists for educational purposes – available to schools and kindergartens. In small groups, the children tackle tasks from structural engineering, automotive technology, and electrical engineering. In this way, children have fun learning to work both independently and as part of a team, while finding out what can be achieved with technology. The children have their own research diary in which they can record all the steps and results – or sketch the things they want to build later with dad in the garage.
If children like something, they won't give it up so easily. In the last five years, almost 120,000 preschoolers and schoolchildren have demonstrated that this also applies to hammers, saws, and drills. They have enjoyed experimenting with tool boxes and visiting companies such as Trumpf, Voith, fischer, BASF, and Bosch. A total of 70 companies are involved in this project, helping to ignite a passion for technology. They are all members of the Knowledge Factory, united by the common aim of getting children interested in science, technology, and business at a young age. The Knowledge Factory also reaches out to young entrepreneurs and students through its mentoring program and competition for new businesses.
Bosch has been involved in this initiative right from the outset. The 70 German locations have initiated more than 50 such educational partnerships in the last few years. Schools and kindergartens in Ansbach, Bamberg, Feuerbach, or Salzgitter have all taken part in journeys of technical discovery. The educational partners work together to develop projects, focusing on the needs and interests of children. Special support is given to both the little kids, who are supervised by apprentices while trying out a range of tools, and young entrepreneurs, who so far have had the opportunity to attend three networking weekends to discuss their ideas with board of management members. To date, 50 business plans have been drawn up in cooperation with company mentors.
In 2009, some 45 percent of Bosch’s research and development budget again went into products that conserve resources and protect the environment
The Bosch Group has made a good start to the current fiscal year, and intends to make up for much of the loss of sales in 2009 this year. Despite the difficult conditions last year, the Bosch Group kept its activities clearly focused on innovation. At 3.6 billion euros (3.9 billion euros in the previous year), research and development expenditure remained on a high level. In 2009 some 45 percent of this spending again went into the development of products that protect the environment and conserve resources. And these products already account for one-third of total sales. “This is both a great opportunity and a great responsibility,” said Franz Fehrenbach, the chairman of the Bosch board of management at the Annual Press Conference in Stuttgart.
Business with renewable energy-related products continues to grow in importance. In this area, for example, the target is to achieve sales of 1.5 billion euros in 2010. Even in the crisis year 2009, it was possible to achieve a slight improvement here, with sales of just under one billion euros. “Instead of waiting for a new Copenhagen, we are using the potential we already have,” Fehrenbach said. He cited the example of gasoline and diesel engines, whose fuel consumption could be reduced by a further 30 percent. Applied to the global vehicle fleet, these measures alone could save a huge amount of CO2 – as much as Germany's total CO2 emissions. Bosch anticipates that the global share of new vehicles powered by the economical diesel engine will rise slightly by 2016, from 25 to 28 percent. Concerning new vehicles with spark-ignition Bosch expects that the share of engines featuring economical gasoline direct injection will increase significantly – from 7 to 20 percent worldwide. The start-stop system, which reduces consumption in urban traffic by up to 8 percent, is also gaining in popularity. Bosch will sell two million of these systems in 2010, on top of the 1.3 million it sold so far.
Despite the significant drop in sales in nearly all its markets, the Bosch Group set itself the target of keeping the core team in the company. “In the years to come, the know-how that remains in the company in the form of qualified associates can be translated into growth,” Fehrenbach said. The number of associates fell by some 11,000 or 4 percent to a total of roughly 270,000. The number of apprentices, by contrast, remained stable. In the crisis year 2009, Bosch offered 6,500 young people worldwide the chance to learn a career, once again training far more people than it actually needs. This year, Bosch will take on some 3,700 university graduates worldwide, 500 of them in Germany and more than 1,000 in both India and China. For this purpose, the company is stepping up its personnel marketing and is also expanding its portfolio of training courses in intercultural skills. They will be offered for 34 countries this year, five more than last year. In total, every Bosch associate attended two training courses on average in 2009.
With a high level of participation and identification - even in the middle of a crisis - Bosch’s most recent associate survey in the autumn of 2009 revealed clearly, the 270,000 Bosch associates worldwide are willing to go with the course Bosch has chosen. This course is pre-eminently, if not exclusively, marked by entrepreneurial responsibility. Bosch itself will continue on its course: firmly focused on long-term trends, challenges, and objectives, responsible and innovative in equal measure. It would be too simple to regard the commitment to environmental and climate protection solely as a matter of putting the company’s responsibility into practice. Instead, it is also a case of seizing its business opportunities: “What makes Bosch policy so unmistakable, then, is that responsible action and business benefit converge – especially over the long term”, resumes Franz Fehrenbach.