Ridding our cities of air pollution, noise and unnecessary traffic is the declared goal of Hamburg start-up NÜWIEL. Using electric bicycle trailers, the three founders want to rethink mobility and improve the quality of life in cities. With the support of the Enterprise Europe Network, they can now make their vision become a reality across Europe.
Sometimes the best business ideas come to you when you least expect them – on a family outing, for example. This is the story of Sandro Rabbiosi, one of the founders of NÜWIEL. He began to wonder how he could transport his children safely and with minimal effort in a bicycle trailer. Shortly afterwards, he met Natalia Tomiyama and Fahad Khan at an entrepreneurship workshop organised by TUTECH INNOVATION. Together, they developed the solution – an electrically powered bicycle trailer which can also be used as a motorised hand trolley.
In 2016, the three engineers founded NÜWIEL, with the motto ‘Let's change the city.’ Their new target group was the logistics industry. The aim of the trailer designed by NÜWIEL is to rid inner cities of unnecessary vehicle usage. Although motorised load carriers already exist, NÜWIEL's smart technology is unique: sensors measure the distance to the bicycle, and thereby regulate when the trailer needs to brake or accelerate. In addition, the NÜWIEL trailer can carry up to 150 kilograms and attaches to any bike within seconds. This makes it ideal not only for delivery services and bicycle couriers, but also for lending to customers. For example as a service provided by DIY stores, furniture shops or supermarkets. In 2017, the trailer passed the long-distance test from Hamburg to Paris. One year later, there were pilot projects with Swedish furniture store IKEA and logistics company UPS. "We have now begun serial production", Natalia Tomiyama proudly explains.
From prototype to successful product
Beginnings are inevitably difficult: developing an idea and successfully bringing it to market is not an easy process. "Unlike a software-based product, for example, a physical product requires a longer development phase and more financial resources", explains Tomiyama. In the initial phase, the start-up received support from consulting firm TUTECH INNOVATION and the Hamburg Investment and Development Bank (IFB). With this initial funding, the NÜWIEL team developed prototypes and carry out field tests in Hamburg's city centre.
Next came the following steps on the three founders' agenda: start the initial serial production and expand internationally. Their contacts at TUTECH and IFB Hamburg referred them to the Enterprise Europe Network, the world's largest service network offering cross-border support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Both TUTECH and IFB have been members of the Enterprise Europe Network for many years. "In principle, contact was established during the initial phase", says Silke Schleiff, who works as a project manager at TUTECH and has also been working as an Enterprise Europe Network consultant for NÜWIEL for one-and-a-half years. This connection enabled a smooth transition from initial support at a regional level to EU-funded support, giving the start-up a boost for entering the international market.
"We initially supported NÜWIEL in applying for the SME Instrument", explains Schleiff. The funding instrument helps to develop concrete innovations to market maturity. Given that it is only awarded to selected companies that must also meet all EU SME criteria, the application takes a long time. However, thanks to the intensive collaboration, the result was successful: "We are delighted that they were recently accepted", says Enterprise Europe Network consultant Schleiff. The NÜWIEL team is also very positive about the collaboration: "We can only recommend that other SMEs use the consulting expertise and large international network the Enterprise Europe Network has to offer."
Next stop: Scandinavia
Now the start-up company wants to rise to the next challenge: "The Enterprise Europe Network is currently helping us find new customers in Scandinavia", says Tomiyama. Silke Schleiff explains: "In these countries, the infrastructure for cyclists is already better developed and is used considerably more. Naturally, this means that these markets are very interesting for NÜWIEL." She looks confidently to the future for the start-up and their collaboration: "We hope that the first NÜWIEL trailers will soon be rolling through the streets of Rotterdam, Copenhagen or Malmö, and we will continue to support the team on the way there."
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