Review: The Spark 2017

In 2017, the second year of The Spark – The German Digital Award, we focused on companies within the field of artificial intelligence which offered an innovative, scalable concept and had been already successfully tested in a business context.


Handelsblatt and McKinsey honored the award winners of The Spark – The German Digital Award for a second time together with an invited audience comprising 200 guests from politics, business, and science.
Ten digital pioneer-businesses presented themselves at the “Umspannwerk” in Berlin to the audience.


All ten finalists inspired the jury with their business idea and presented their innovations to the audience of the award ceremony 2017. Following three impressed the jury particularly and therefor left as the winners of The Spark 2017:



Capsicum from Spain, a mango from Pacistan and an avocado from Peru. Our food is coming from farmers and companies all around the world. But not all products make it to our tables because 15-30 percent of all harvest fall victim to plant diseases or pests. For a small farmer this can be life-threatening. The product Plantix wants to help. Farmers can take a picture of the contaminated plant with their smartphone. Via image recognition and with the help of a constantly increasing database Plantix recognizes automatically over 180 plant diseases and offers a recommendation for action. With the help of GPS data from the sent pictures Plantix recognizes spreading patterns of diseases and pests in real-time. The software can be integrated in every camera system with access to the internet. Monitoring systems in greenhouses, tractors, drones and agricultural robots can be equipped and can therefore guarantee better harvests.


Thousands of trucks are on the roads of Europe and Germany on a daily basis. Logistic efforts are huge – but often vehicles are not used in an optimized way. Not all of them are fully loaded, not all of them reach their target location right in time and prices for those journeys are often not transparent. This is where the self-learning algorithm of Cargonexx focuses on. Prices and cargo flows, also weather information, are analyzed on a constant basis. The self-learning algorithm calculates within seconds the latest price for the request of the freight forwarder. This price can be accepted with one click and Cargonexx takes over the responsibility for the delivery. Within their network of carrier Cargonexx selects the right partner. The best tour for the best price – even for part loads and without any risk for freight forwarder and carrier.



An invoice arrives at a company. It is opened, arranged, booked, released – a typical finance procedure which takes multiple days and costs companies on average 5 € per incoming invoice. If times are stressful and workload is high in the area of accounting and controlling things can get tight. The consequences are annoyed supplier or even reminder fees. But this will change due to SMACC. The artificial neural nets of SMACC revolutionize the internal finance process of companies. Invoices are recognized automatically, are allocated automatically to cost centers and made available for the digital release process. This technology offers liquidity management in real-time. With the help of monitored learning and speech processing more and more company specific tasks can be taken over. Creating transparency of liquidity and business development become possible on a daily basis.


Between March and July 2017, we looked for the best candidates and chose ten as finalists. We would like to briefly introduce the finalists 2017 to you:

Finalist 1

Cargonexx GmbH

GmbH developed an innovative, data-based business model which organizes trucking more efficiently for freight forwarders, carriers and transport companies.

Finalist 2

Fraugster Ltd.

The software of Fraugster tackles online fraud in e-commerce with the help of an artificial intelligence engine which imitates the thinking process of a human analyst but is also scalable and has the speed of a machine.

Finalist 3

Gini GmbH

The real-time semantic analysis of Gini generates structured information out of unstructured documents – e.g. pictures of an invoice.

Finalist 4

octimine technologies GmbH

Octimine offers a software for the patent research and analysis which is fast, precise and user-friendly.

Finalist 5


Plantix by PEAT recognizes plant diseases with the help of artificial intelligence and image recognition via smartphones and suggests treatment options.

Finalist 6

PRECIRE Technologies GmbH

askPRECIRE decodes written and spoken speech and makes precise statements about psychological parameters. By combining different effects it can create and deduct psychological typologies.

Finalist 7

Renumics GmbH

The simulation platform of Renumics analyzes design variations with less work effort, reduces licensing costs and provides product specific simulation tools.

Finalist 8


The cloud-software application of SMACC offers full automation of operational finance processes in small and medium-sized businesses by using artificial intelligence.

Finalist 9

So1 GmbH

So1 offers a technology platform for brands and discounter based on artificial intelligence which targets customers with individual and effective discounts.

Finalist 10

Starmind International AG

Starmind creates collective expertise within organizations through self-learning algorithms in order to increase human productivity.


Within our application process ten finalists were preselected. On the 18th of September those finalists introduced their innovation at the live pitches during the jury session. The winners were announced at the award ceremony on the 12th of October in Berlin.

In 2017 following high-caliber jury with professional know-how selected the winners from the applications:

Sven Afhüppe

Editor-in-chief Handelsblatt


Cornelius Baur

Head of McKinsey Germany


Lak Ananth

CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and Managing Partner, next47


Jackson Bond

CPO (Chief Product Officer) and Co-Founder of relayr


Peter Leibinger

CDO (Chief Digital Officer) Volkswagen AG
Geschäftsführung TRUMPF GMBH + CO. KG
Vice Chairman of the Managing Board of TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG and Head of the Laser Technology/Electronics Business Division, responsible for Research and Development


Johann Jungwirth

CDO (Chief Digital Officer) Volkswagen AG


Jörn Nikolay

Managing Director General Atlantic

Christian Schlögel

Chief Digital Officer Körber AG


Frank Rosenberger

Member of the Executive Board – IT and New Markets


Klaus Glatz

Chief Digital Officer ANDRITZ AG

Prof. dr. dr. Ann-Kristin Achleitner

Scientific Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial and Financial Studies (CEFS), Munich University of Technology


Lucian Schönefelder

Director KKR, Head of European Growth Equity and Digital Media PE


Bernhard Schölkopf

Director at Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems


Megumi Ikeda

Managing Director, Hearst Ventures & General Manager, Hearst Ventures Europe


Chris Boos

CEO & Founder arago GmbH


Sabina Jeschke

Director of Cybernetics Lab RWTH Aachen University

The Nomination committee


Grischa Brower-Rabinowitsch

Handelsblatt – Head of department company & markets


Niko Mohr

Partner at McKinsey

Prof. Michael Dowling

Professor for Innovation and Technology Management, University of Regensburg and Chairman of the Board of the Münchener Kreis

Prof. dr. habil. Alois Knoll

Professor at the Technical University of Munich, Chair of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Real-Time Systems