DuPont opened its 8th Innovation Center with a thought-leader panel discussing how innovation and collaboration dominate the auto industry landscape. This is especially important today as the industry races to adopt multiple technologies that improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions.
Panel videos from the opening offer insights from:
- Michael Robinet, Managing Director, IHS Automotive Consulting
- David Cole - Chairman Emeritus, Center for Automotive Research; and Chairman, Auto Harvest
- Gary Rogers - President and CEO, FEV, Inc.
- Tom Connelly, DuPont Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Office
Welcome to the ‘Global Collaboratory’
When DuPont connected the Troy, Michigan, application development facility to its growing and global network of Innovation Centers, it took aim squarely connecting materials science to the needs of the global automotive industry.
The issues here are plentiful:
- Fuel economy and emission reduction regulations around the world are driving the need for greater efficiency, reduced vehicle and component weight, alternative fuels and alternative drive vehicles
- Our growing population has ever-increasing energy needs
- An aggressive timeline of new-vehicle introductions is increasing the demand for innovation
“We are in an industry where the clock-speed on innovation is getting faster and faster and the only way to bring innovation to market is for us to lay all our cards on the table, face up,” said DuPont Chief Innovation Officer Tom Connelly. “We need to be more open about our capabilities and advanced-materials solutions as a means of inviting rich conversations about customer and consumer needs. Only then can we get down to the work of delivering solutions as fast as possible.”
That’s the essence of DuPont’s Innovation Centers. Drawing from experience that the most sustainable innovations are developed with customers along the global value chain, DuPont invested in the means to both facilitate the type of interactions that lead to breakthrough applications and in facilities to stimulate new thinking.
The Innovation Centers are a part of DuPont’s Global Collaboratory concept, which refers to “a center without walls in which researchers can perform their research without regard to physical location.”
“DuPont has been an amazing company in creating knowledge – how do we accelerate that knowledge into the products and processes?” asked thought leader David Cole, who was one of the automotive industry thought leaders invited to the opening ceremony to discuss how the global automotive industry can dramatically shift to solve critical issues. “Collaboration. Innovation. Teamwork. It’s a way of life. Collaboration and the idea of a collaboratory here is perfect.”
The center in Troy, Michigan – the 4th focused on the automotive industry and the 8th globally offers:
- Collaboration space with videoconferencing for real-time idea and knowledge exchange with more than 150 DuPont research laboratories and application development centers, and 9,500 DuPont scientists
- Innovation kiosks with applications and concepts to stimulate new ideas to solve challenges
- An adjacent application development center for rapid prototypes, material testing and proof of concept
Racing to Get Multiple Technologies to Market Simultaneously
The auto industry is no stranger to balancing regulations, safety, consumer demand and cost. With many of these demands serving contradicting requirements – more performance with improved fuel economy; advanced in-vehicle electronics with simplicity of use; more innovative ideas but shorter lead time to market – the challenges can feel overwhelming.
“We are the most complex industry in the world, yet no one knows that,” said Cole during the panel discussions, which focused on:
- Innovation in context with consumer expectations, government regulations and globalization
- Challenges and breakthroughs needed to meet new 54.5 mpg regulations – efficiency, lightweighting, hybrids, biofuels and automotive’s role in the energy equation.
- Collaboration as the critical engine of innovation.