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Toyota Seeks to Engage, Mentor and Fund Sustainability Startups

August 30, 2023 by Joe Panettieri

Toyota Motor Europe has launched Toyota Open Labs, an organization that will seek to nurture sustainability startups across five market segments -- energy, circular economy, carbon neutrality, smart communities and mobility for all.

The Toyota Open Labs program will also help the car company's transformation to a mobility company, the announcement stated.

In a prepared statement about the launch, Kylie Jimenez (pictured, top of page), senior VP of People, Tech & Corporate Affairs at Toyota Motor Europe, said: "If you are a startup focused on solving tomorrow's sustainability and mobility challenges, Toyota Open Labs is the right place for you. Toyota is developing mobility systems that will sustainably reinvent how we live, work, and play on a global scale. Toyota Open Labs represents a unique opportunity to turn bold startup visions into reality through unparalleled support from our innovation ecosystem."

Toyota Open Labs: Potential Benefits for Startups

Participating startups will receive strategic expertise, funding and a global stage to present their solution, according to the Toyota Open Labs website. Potential benefits to startups, the website states, include:

  • Strategic expertise: Toyota’s participating partners (Toyota Motor Europe, Toyota Tsusho Europe, KINTO Europe, Woven Capital and Toyota Mobility Foundation) will "collaborate with participating startups and provide strategic counsel throughout the programme, with exposure to insights from the world’s largest automaker and leaders from global markets."
  • Funding: Each participant will receive "equity free development funding." -- although target funding amounts were not disclosed. Toyota’s growth-stage fund, Woven Capital, will also "advise participating companies regarding investment opportunities and provide ongoing strategic counsel."
  • A global stage: Participants will have the "opportunity to work with Toyota and build a joint Proof of Concept to showcase at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games Demo Day."

The initial Toyota Open Labs program will follow this timeline, according to the website:

  • September 2023: Call for startups
  • October 2023: Admissions
  • November 2023: Program Starts
  • July 2024: Program completed
  • August 2024: Demo Day in Paris

Toyota Open Labs: Focus Areas for Startups

Startups can visit the Toyota Open Labs homepage to apply for participation. Interested startups should focus on one or more of the following five areas:

  1. Energy: Technologies and systems to facilitate the energy transition, hydrogen economy, grid balancing, energy management, smart charging, and vehicle-to-grid energy transfers.
  2. Circular Economy: Technologies and systems to enable the recovery, recycling, and reuse of vehicles and batteries.
  3. Carbon Neutrality: Technologies and systems helping companies and society reduce carbon emissions, and digitalisation to enable transparent life cycle assessment.
  4. Smart Communities: New business models and solutions to develop and support smart communities through vehicle sharing, subscriptions, and mobility hubs.
  5. Mobility for All: Fair-value solutions to overcome mobility barriers, strengthen mobility systems and mobilize low-carbon communities, addressing the needs of an aging society and devising universal designs for all users.

Toyota Open Labs: Required Business Stages for Startups

Toyota Open Labs will evaluate startup applications based on these criteria, the organization said:

  • Growth-stage startups and scaleups, who already have a relatively high level of product maturity and scale;
  • Companies that are able to immediately enter into an active collaboration with Toyota business units, irrespective of money raised and revenue; and
  • Solutions for Toyota’s needs in its transformation path towards a mobility company in the programme target areas (energy, circular economy, carbon-neutral technologies, smart communities, mobility for all).

Moreover, Toyota Open Labs values "the sustainable impact of the company, both social and environmental, and we also encourage and value diversity in the team, for instance the presence of women, people with disabilities, people with different cultural backgrounds."

Toyota Open Labs: Requirements for Startups to Participate

To be considered for the program, the startup must:

  • Be legally established, or will be legally established before the start of the Programme.
  • Commit at least one full-time member of your team to the programme, ensuring the necessary managerial and technical skills.
  • Be present or has plans to be in the market of any of the 27 European Member states, the Horizon 2020 Associated Countries and United Kingdom.
  • Have high-level English language skills, as the programme will take place in English.
  • Align with Toyota’s values and adhere to EU legal regulations (e.g. GDPR etc.).

Sustainable Mobility: Another Accelerator to Note

Meanwhile, numerous organizations worldwide are seeking to incubate and accelerate sustainable mobility startups.

One example involves The Company Lab, an accelerator in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Indeed, the organization will host Co.Mobility Summit in May 2024. The kick-off event, hosted in 2023, attracted such keynote speakers as AOL founder Steve Case.

On a related note, Chattanooga has been positioning itself as a technology hub for sustainable mobility and next-generation logistics capabilities.

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