Research and development

Research and development as key success factors

Research and development have always played a key role at Daimler. Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz invented the automobile more than 130 years ago. Today, we are shaping the future of mobility anew. Our goal is to offer our customers fascinating products and customized solutions for needs-oriented, safe and sustainable mobility. Our technology portfolio and our key areas of expertise are focused on this objective.

The expertise, creativity and drive of our employees in research and development are key factors behind our vehicles’ market success. At the end of 2019, Daimler employed 24,300 men and women at its research and development units around the world (2018: 25,600). A total of 16,200 of those employees (2018: 17,700) worked at Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, 5,600 (2018: 5,300) at Daimler Trucks, 1,200 (2018: 1,300) at Mercedes-Benz Vans and 1,300 (2018: 1,300) at Daimler Buses. Around 5,100 researchers and development engineers (2018: 5,800) worked outside Germany.

Global research and development network

With our global research and development network, we are present in the key markets with direct proximity to our customers. Our biggest facilities are in Sindelfingen and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim in Germany. Our most important research facilities in North America are the US R&D locations in Sunnyvale, California; Long Beach, California; Portland, Oregon; and Redford, Michigan. Our most important facilities in Asia are in Bangalore, India; the Global Hybrid Center in Kawasaki, Japan; and our research and development center in Beijing, China. Mercedes-Benz Research & Development India (MBRDI, with headquarters in Bangalore) is Daimler’s largest research and development center outside Germany. Activities at MBRDI focus on digitalization, simulations and data science. In November 2018, we announced plans to build a further Research and Development (R&D) Tech Center in China with a total investment of approximately €145 million. This new center will further expand our presence in what is now our biggest single market. It will also be our second major R&D site in Beijing, following the Mercedes-Benz R&D Center, which was established in China in 2014. The new R&D Tech Center in China is scheduled to begin operating in 2020.

Along with our internal activities, we also maintain close contacts with external research institutions. For example, we work together with various renowned research institutes around the world and participate in international exchange programs for next-generation scientists.

We are open to cooperation - worldwide. Our partners include promising startups such as what3words and Anagog, as well as suppliers such as Bosch and, in selected fields, competitors such as BMW. Some of our Chinese partners are Baidu, Alibaba and Tsinghua University. We operate digital hubs as development centers around the world, for example in Berlin, Seattle, Lisbon and Tel Aviv.

Targeted involvement of the supplier network

In order to achieve our ambitious goals, we also cooperate very closely with the research and development units of our suppliers. Daimler must be closely intermeshed with supplier partners in order to deal with the rapid pace of technological change in the automotive industry and the need to quickly bring new technologies to market maturity. Such cooperation is all the more important in light of the increasing digitalization of processes throughout all stages of the value chain. Strong partners are also essential for our efforts to develop and offer new concepts for future mobility. As part of our joint research and development work, we aim to ensure that the Group retains the key technological expertise it needs in order to maintain the uniqueness of our brands and to safeguard the future of the automobile in general.

Protecting our brands and patents

Without the protection and management of its patents, brands and designs, Daimler could never have become as successful as it is today. That is why we seek to effectively protect and manage the Group’s intellectual property and the innovations that inspire our customers around the globe. In this manner, we also intend to ensure the successful continuation of our tradition that goes back more than 130 years. We upheld this tradition in 2019 by registering more than 2,100 new ideas for patents (2018: 1,900), with an increasing focus on the future-oriented fields of connectivity, automated and autonomous driving, and electric drive systems. In addition to industrial property rights, which safeguard our innovations for future mobility over the long term, the unique visual aspects of our products are protected with more than 7,500 registered designs (2018: 7,500). Our portfolio of more than 34,500 trademark rights worldwide (2018: 36,300) also serves to protect the Mercedes-Benz brand, our new EQ brand for electric mobility, and all of our other product brands in the relevant markets. In order to safeguard this intellectual property, we established an IP competence center for all brands and technologies last year under the name Daimler Brand & IP Management GmbH & Co. KG. This company registers and manages Daimler’s portfolio of patents, brands, trademarks, designs and domains, handling everything from the process of invention disclosure to the granting or registration of the intellectual property right. In the event of disputes regarding improper use of Daimler’s intellectual property, the team takes over its defense before the authorities and the courts.

€9.7 billion for research and development

We want to continue helping to shape mobility through our pioneering innovations in the coming years, while moving ahead with digitalization throughout the entire Group. We therefore slightly increased our very high level of investment in research and development to €9.7 billion in 2019 (2018: €9.1 billion). At the beginning of 2019 we assumed that development would remain at the same level as the previous year. Of that amount, €3.1 billion (2018: €2.5 billion) was capitalized as development costs, which represents a capitalization rate of 32 % (2018: 28 %). The amortization of capitalized research and development expenditure totaled €1.8 billion during the year under review (2018: €1.5 billion). With a rate of 5.6 % (2018: 5.4 %), research and development expenditure also remained at a high level in comparison with revenue. Along with the production launches, research in the year under review focused on the further development of our platforms and electric and conventional drivetrains. Digitalization and automated and autonomous driving are also becoming increasingly important.

Activities at Mercedes-Benz Cars in the year under review were marked by an increasing focus on digitalization, automated and autonomous driving, and the further development of electric drive systems and a new platform for vehicles with all-electric drive systems.

Automated driving, electromobility and connectivity played an important role at Daimler Trucks. The subsequent generations of existing products, fuel efficiency and emissions reduction were further focal points, along with customized products and technologies for future growth markets.

Activities at Mercedes-Benz Vans centered around the further development of the Sprinter, the Vito and the V-Class. However, Mercedes-Benz Vans is also forging ahead with the electrification of both its commercial and private model series.

Daimler Buses primarily focused its development activities on new products and measures to further reduce fuel consumption. Alternative drive systems, in particular electrification technology and other forward-looking projects related to automated and autonomous driving, also played a key role during the year under review. (See graphic B.39 and table B.40)

Daimler AR2019 B.36 Research and development expenditure

B.40 Research and development expenditure by division

  2019 2018 19/18
In millions of euros     % change
Daimler Group thereof capitalized 9,662
Mercedes-Benz Cars thereof capitalized 7,518
Daimler Trucks thereof capitalized 1,490
Mercedes-Benz Vans thereof capitalized 543
Daimler Buses thereof capitalized 203
Innovation and safety
Sustainability at Daimler