Centre of Entrepreneurship

Pfizer, AXA and Xiaomi named Corporate Startup Stars 2021

  • 16 December 2021

Fifty companies from all over the world have been named winners in the 2021 Corporate Startup Stars awards with Pfizer, AXA and Xiaomi taking first, second and third places respectively.

For the sixth year running, startups were asked to  nominate the corporates they believed to be most active in open innovation for the prestigious annual Corporate Startup Stars Awards. Launched by Mind the Bridge under the European Commission’s Startup Europe Partnership initiative in 2016, the Awards have been scaled at global level thanks to a partnership with ICC.

The global ranking, unveiled today in Paris during an official award ceremony opened by French Secretary of State for the Digital Economy Cédric O, saw Pfizer secure first place, followed by AXA and Xiaomi. In total, 50 companies, located in every region of the world have been recognised for their work: 25 as Global Corporate Startup Stars and 25 as Global Open Innovation Challengers.

Mr O said: “Open innovation is key to building tomorrow’s society. Given the societal and environmental challenges of our time, companies need to work hand in hand. In France, the government is therefore committed to bringing together the outstanding vitality of “La French Tech” and the excellence of large companies. That’s why I was delighted that a prestigious event, such as the Corporate Startup Stars Awards, was hosted in France this year.”

Alberto Onetti, Chairman of Mind the Bridge added: “​Evolve or Be Extinct has been Mind the Bridge’s mantra since day one: startups today might be either vehicles of disruption or innovation. No corporate, whatever the size and industry, is immune from disruption if they do not put open innovation at the centre of their strategy – added – The good news is that open innovation is increasingly adopted at global level and best practices are now available to help late movers to enter the arena and close the gap. The Corporate Startup Stars Awards are aimed at showcasing best practices and role models of how the corporate-startup collaboration might benefit both sides with the ultimate goal to help and inspire other corporates to follow suit.”

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “When adopting an open innovation model, companies don’t look to generate pioneering ideas alone but rather to utilise or build on existing internal and external ideas that enable them to be more effective at managing cost and risk and to accelerate technology development. This way, innovation can be thought of as a continuum. Consequently, a key feature of the open innovation model is its flexibility and by way of the Awards we are shining a merited light on those companies that are leading the way for others and enabling more businesses to secure peace, prosperity and opportunity for all”.

One company that has systematically pursued Open Innovation with Purpose and involving all nations, all genders, all generations is the 2021 Grand Winner, Pfizer. During the Award ceremony it was noted that the company’s success was not the result of a “one-off stroke of luck” but rather the outcome of years of specific innovation activities. Pfizer has a comprehensive open innovation strategy, integrating collaborations with investments – Resilience, LianBio, Pyxis are some examples – plus intrapreneurship and venture builder – Cerevel Therapeutics, spun out, is a notable case – and acquisitions – for example Trillium Therapeutics, invested in 2020 and acquired in 2021. Pfizer’s partnership with startup BioNTech epitomises this by crossing national, generational and gender borders to come together and help  the world.

Open innovation often happens in sectors adjacent to the core business, which is where Axa proved to be an international benchmark. The jury recognized Axa’s effort in fostering worldwide emerging technologies and business models, in spaces such as health tech (telemedicine, digital therapeutics), mobility (car rental, fleet management), and others, such as cybersecurity.

Xiaomi has been recognized for successfully rolling out an open innovation strategy that builds on both an ecosystem approach and startup investments. Xiaomi has invested in hundreds of IoT startups to date, while also setting up a team of industrial designers dedicated to working with the portfolio startups, to help them create products that fit in with Xiaomi’s strategy and quality standards.

ICC Board member Candace Johnson, who leads the Corporate Startup Stars Judging Committee said: “It has been truly so rewarding and inspiring to have interacted with the various members of the Open Innovation Ecosystem throughout the entire judging process. There are a few things that really struck the jury. The first one is that it is no longer Open Innovation just for business. It is Open Innovation with a purpose to serve the planet, the universe, humanity. Another thing that has struck the jury is that those who we have chosen as winners in all categories and in all regions were not content just to have open innovation in their own corporations or in their relationships with the startups. No, most of the winners have reached out to their entire communities, engaging everyone in the Ecosystem and involving them in the Open Innovation Process. Many times, they have done it with Challenges.”

Along with Pfizer, AXA and Xiaomi, companies named in the 2021 Top 25 Corporate Startup Stars are: AB InBev, Allianz, Aramco, BNP Paribas, Bosch, BP, Enel, Engie, Haier, Huawei, Hyundai, Iberdrola, KDDI, Mastercard, National Grid, Nestlè, Orange, Samsung, SAP, Schneider Electric, Sodexo, and Telefónica.

The 25 companies awarded in the “Open Innovation Challengers” category are: Acciona, AP Moller Maersk, Banco Bradesco, Bayer AG, BayWa, BBVA, Boeing, BTG Pactual, CEMEX, Enagás, Eni, Grupo Bolivar, Grupo Sura, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Hitachi, KPN, MTN Group, Rabobank, Rakuten, Shinhan Financial Group, Standard Bank, Suzano S.A, Tata Group, Tech Mahindra, and Volvo Group.

Regional Awards go to Bosch (Europe), Mastercard (North America), BTG Pactual (South America), Samsung (APAC), Standard Bank (Africa) and Aramco (Middle East).

Special awards for seven categories single out approaches and best practices that merit recognition:

During the Awards Ceremony, Mind the Bridge presented key evidence emerging from its Report “Evolve or Be Extinct. Future Models of Open Innovation from the 2021 Global Corporate Startup Stars” that analyses how Fortune 500/Forbes 2000 companies interact with startups and scaleups at global level.

Download the Mind the Bridge report Report “Evolve or Be Extinct, Future Models of Open Innovation from the 2021 Global Corporate Startup Stars