BMW Group has announced that it plans to spend up to €500 million (£427 million) on new car technologies over the next 10 years through its i Ventures division.
The money will be used to back startups working on areas such as autonomous driving and mapping that can help BMW to make its cars more intelligent and efficient.
Founded in 2011 with a $100 million (£80 million) fund to play with, i Ventures is going through a fairly major shake up at the moment.
Its HQ is being relocated from New York to Silicon Valley and the organisation is being given a higher level of autonomy so that it can move swiftly on startups that it wants to invest in or partner with. BMW i Ventures is also going to begin looking at startups in Europe and Asia as opposed to just the US, which is where i Ventures has traditionally focused.
“These days, more and more innovations come from the startup scene,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, a member of the board of management at BMW Group, which is responsible for MINI, BMW Motorrad, and Rolls-Royce, in a statement. “Venturing allows us to tap into this potential at an early stage. To achieve this, we are now giving BMW i Ventures a much broader footing.”
He added: “The atmosphere of radical openness and idea-driven exchange that characterises the startup scene is particularly fruitful for an innovation leader like BMW.”
The luxury car-maker said that the i Ventures VC firm will now operate independently and globally under the leadership of two managing partners — Ulrich Quay and Uwe Higgen.
Since its formation, BMW i Ventures has completed more than 15 investments in various mobility-related startups. In 2014, for example, BMW i Ventures backed San Francisco’s RideCell. The automotive giant has used RideCell’s technology in ReachNow, BMW’s car sharing service in the US. RideCell’s technology has been “responsible for” the IT platform and all customer interfaces used for reservations and billing, according to BMW.