In times like ours, when more and more voices are calling for increased regulation of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) in order to avoid their potentially adverse social impacts, standards are more important than ever. That is because multi-stakeholder dialogue, which is part and parcel of the often laborious process of devising technical and production standards, ensures that the end-result of such consultations reflects different and differing perspectives related to the impact .
Recognizing the importance of standardization to scientific and technological development, AtomLeap has decided to partner up with DIN, the German national standardization agency. The scope of this collaboration is to have a two-way exchange between the startups in the AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator and DIN regarding innovation and standardization. Thus far, the AtomLeap – DIN cooperation has taken the form of several meetings and a workshop about standardization in additive manufacturing for Innovo, one of the startups in our accelerator program. Going forward, DIN mentors will attend our fall get-together next week, where they will share information about DIN’s stance on innovation with all the startups in our accelerator program and discuss the two programs that the organization has organized specifically for startups — DIN SPEC and DIN Connect.
The rationale for standards in innovation
While standardization and innovation are not necessarily the most obvious bedfellows, national and international standards bodies like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have longed made it possible for consumers and businesses to use technology in a safe and quality-controlled manner.
The pace of innovation in recent decades, however, has made it difficult for standards, which painstakingly record all the methods, processes, and practices surrounding a given process or product and therefore take a long time to establish, to keep up. That is because, often times, standardizing new and fast-changing technologies and processes is next to impossible, for they continue to change at such a pace, that it is unfeasible for the standard to keep up with their evolution.
However, the stakeholders that participate in making technical standards are tremendously influential in shaping the markets for the respective products and services. Therefore, it is important that innovative startups participate in this process as well, even as their solutions continue to improve and change over time, in order for them to exert a greater degree of control over their markets.
The longest standing of the two programs, DIN SPEC, was launched in 2013 in order to streamline the process of standardization for quick-evolving technologies. Devised with startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in mind, the program cuts down the time required to standardize a certain process or technology from years, which is how long it normally takes to set a standard, down to months. A single SPEC covers issues related to both the demand and supply sides. The number of steps required to pass a DIN SPEC, which can serve as the basis for a full-fledged standard, is dramatically lower compared to regular standards.
As part of the program, DIN endeavors to provide a free initial consultation for companies or teams that want to participate; to evaluate for free the potential of the proposed technology or process of becoming a standard; to engage at least three parties in the process of devising a SPEC; and to publicize it internationally through its partner publishing house Beuth Verlag.
The benefits for startups from joining such a program include, according to our discussions with DIN, exposure to a wide network of national and international stakeholders, recognition, access to markets and potential clients, and product validation against other innovations and existing technologies.
DIN Connect builds upon DIN SPEC by further enhancing the support that the organization grants to innovative startups and SMEs. Launched earlier this year, DIN Connect is a competitive program through which teams can win grants of up to €35,000 to participate in devising new standards. The program lasts for less than 12 months, is organized by DIN in conjunction with DKE, the German center for standardization in electrotechnical innovation, and involves a simple online application process that you can fill out after creating a DIN Connect account.
Having started in June, the application period for the 2019 program — the official launch date of the first batch of DIN Connect projects is March 1, 2019 — will come to an end on September 30. Therefore, if you believe that your solution has the potential to become a standard and to shape your market, we encourage you to apply as soon as possible. After a first pre-selection of the applications, candidates will be invited to pitch their ideas to DIN and DKE representatives in an open competition on November 8. The finalists will be announced by January 31, 2019. Applicants whose solutions have to do with workplace innovation, circular economy, smart technologies and services, Industry 4.0, ageing societies, IT, innovative materials, and safety in electrotechnology are particularly encouraged to apply.
If you want to learn more about DIN and its efforts to promote innovation, feel free to explore the organization’s website and consider attending its Innovation Conference that will take place in Berlin on October 10-11 this year. We hope you found the above information useful and that you will consider partaking in DIN’s programs as a good alternative to help you with the commercialization of your solution(s).