Innovation ecosystem : the importance of academic partnerships
Academic partners are important to Faurecia, not least because of the pace of change in today’s automotive industry. It’s no longer possible for car makers or suppliers to master everything across the value chain, with the speed of new technologies, materials and applications. Over the past decade, Faurecia has created a series of different partnerships that are strengthening knowledge and expertise, supporting our roadmap over the mid to long-term, as well as accelerating the industrialization of new technologies.
Each type of partnership answers the challenges at different stages of our innovation process. This starts with anticipating technology trends and evaluating potential through upstream technology surveys. access to latest research into fuel cell technology. For exemple partnership with the Collège de France connects us to advanced developments in polymer materials, battery technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analysis.
We also have framework agreements that lead to specific research projects, such as a joint program begun with the Indian Institute of Science on the use of sensors in measuring real-time emissions as well as occupant monitoring and human machine interface. Other examples of academic partnerships include industrial chairs where Faurecia finances university research teams in a specific domain over a five-year period. These have proved an invaluable resource, boosting R&D in strategic areas for the group such as metal materials and industrial processes, composites and automotive mechatronics.
Academic partnerships focus more on upstream research that requires in-depth exploration before we progress to industrialization. Once a promising technology is validated or when we need to industrialize a technical solution, we work with national research institutes, such as Fraunhofer in Germany or IRT in France, that are equipped with state of the art facilities for validating processes using pilot lines.
In a fast moving environment for technologies Faurecia is also committed to work in an open innovation mode with start-ups and small companies which can bring pre-validated technology bricks to our products. In this case we have to adapt the technology to our needs and validate it in a car environment. When necessary we also can invest in the start-up.
Collaboration is mutually beneficial. For Faurecia it provides insights that can allow us go further and faster in integrating new technologies and enhancing our solutions. It also enriches our in-house expertise – through frequent training and technical exchanges, as well as recruiting research specialists who bring new knowledge and skills to the group. For our academic partners, it provides new sources of funding, gives their teams exposure to industrial challenges and applications and has led to many patent applications and even the creation of spin-off companies. One of our industrial liaison partners – MIT – has a network of over 4000 startups, many of which have grown out of research projects. In addition, this early entry allows us to identify, work and ultimately integrate new talent more easily.
Faurecia has 3 technology platforms in Silicon Valley, Toronto and Tel Aviv – locations with a concentration of expertise and startup activity. Academic research and industrial partnering contribute significantly to the development of these clusters of technology innovation. Investing upstream with universities brings greater value downstream. We look forward to continuing to advance understanding and use of future technologies that will be key to the automotive world, as well as many other industries!