Collaborative projects as a platform for interdisciplinary cooperation and innovation

The parallelism of energy and mobility transformation requires a transdisciplinary approach with a strong target orientation. The joint project “unIT-e² – Real Lab for integrated E-Mobility”, which consists of 28 partners from the energy and automotive industries, component manufacturers, IT companies and science, relies on an innovative project structure and a structured project methodology for the organization of the consortium and the implementation of collaborative field tests. This enables the partners to jointly develop and implement technical concepts, to work on individual research questions, to discuss higher-level issues in exchange with the consortium and to accompany the work with scientific methods and analyses. The cluster structure of the project methodology allows (partially) autonomous ecosystems for the individual field tests, conceptual sub-projects ensure consistency and a synthesis. The specially developed project methodology acts as an enabler for the harmonization of project ideas and as a concrete planning basis for implementation. With its project methodology and structure, unIT-e² can be seen as a blueprint for the organization of collaborative projects. Figure 1 shows the successive process steps of the project methodology in unIT-e².

Figure 1: Evolution of the unIT-e² demonstrations

In issue 11 from 2022 of the et – Energiewirtschaftliche Tagesfragen, our article describes the project methodology of unIT-e². First, it deals with the actual added value of large collaborative projects and the current unique selling point of our unIT-e² project. In particular, the necessary speed of transformation in the mobility and energy sectors requires close and constructive collaboration between the industries. Furthermore, the article discusses the challenges that exist primarily due to the size and diversity of the consortium. In the following, various approaches to solv these challenges, as they have proven themselves in the first project period of unIT-e², are presented. On the one hand, this includes the project structure with the (partially) autonomous subprojects and the clearly defined interfaces between them. In addition, the project methodology enables a uniform approach across the subprojects and thus also a meaningful, cross-project synthesis of the results. Two further instruments for overcoming the challenges are cross-industry knowledge transfer and a common mission statement that describes the “big picture” of what drives the consortium and makes it a team. The article concludes with a conclusion on the extent to which the project methodology and the approach of a large collaborative project have been successfully proven in the first project year of unIT-e².