Ford’s focus on outside innovation
Detroit’s Lawrence Technological University recently had a visit from Bill Coughlin, the CEO of Ford Global Technologies. His group manages the intellectual property of Ford. During his visit, a student showed Coughlin his design for a self-cleaning wheel. The CEO had never seen anything like it, and it was an idea that had never even crossed his mind.
This is just one example of the type of outside innovation Ford is striving for with two of its existing programs: an alliance with DIY workshop space TechShop as well as a partnership with entrepreneurs outside the vehicle manufacturing industry.
Two new initiatives have just been announced by the carmaker. The first is The Motor City Innovation Exchange which will see Ford join forces with Wayne State University think tank Techtown and design collaboration network AutoHarvest.
The second new initiative is Jump Start, where TechShop members will have the option to rent discounted office space from real estate company FordLand.
Xconomy reports that Ford has already given its employees free membership to Techshop.
“There’s a race going on to find technologies that customers will really appreciate and pay for,” Coughlin said. “We can only do so much internally. If we’re receptive to ideas outside the company, we can have faster results.”
It is hoped the Motor City Innovation Exchange will become a physical extension of AutoHarvest. The partnership will provide a showroom where inventors can display their work to people within the industry as well as potential investors.
Coughlin wants to foster a busy meeting place for licensing technology that can be used by the automotive industry as well as other sectors. He wants to help forge relationships between innovators and industry – even if one of Ford’s rivals has access to the resulting work.
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Managing Director, The Strategy Group
Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.