Supplier DuPont opened its eighth innovation center and first one in the U.S. on Thursday in Troy to expand collaboration with customers, suppliers, experts and scientists around the world to ensure continued innovation in fields from automotive to food.
“No one has the resources to do everything themselves,” said Tom Connelly, DuPont’s chief innovation officer.
DuPont, which has its automotive division headquarters in Troy, already has innovation centers in India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand and Brazil, and plans to open three more in Russia, Turkey and Geneva, Switzerland, by the end of the year.
“It’s an important day,” said Connelly, noting that DuPont does more than $3 billion annually in sales to the auto industry and the sector is its second-largest market.
Connelly said only a handful of jobs will be created initially and the investment is modest, but the true value is in providing a way to work with customers and innovators around the world and around the clock to keep pace with the fast-moving cycles of industry today.
The Troy center, which has meeting rooms with smart boards and videoconferencing, is one of four centers focused on the automotive industry while others like Thailand are centered on food and construction.
“With innovation, you can gain competitive advantage and without it you can lose that advantage,” said auto analyst David Cole, formerly head of the Center for Automotive Research.
Gary Rogers, chief executive of FEV, said on the powertrain front there will be continued innovation to meet tougher fuel economy standards. Look for more mild hybrids systems and a continuation of the trend to smaller engines with direct injection and turbocharging as well as more multigear and continuously variable transmissions. The trick is to make them meet consumers’ high expectations, Rogers said. They must act and sound like the systems on the market today, there cannot be compromises for the fuel efficiency.
“We need to push technology into new areas like highly boosted 3-cylinder engines,” he said.
That requires collaboration on all aspects of tomorrow’s vehicles, which means working more closely with partners, Rogers said.
DuPont created the innovation centers to communicate with the supplier’s scientists in 75 research and development centers around the world. Initially, they were envisioned for developing regions without full labs, but Connelly said DuPont realized the idea could be expanded to many regions, including mature markets.
The more centers, the better, he said, creating a web of communication to identify market needs, anticipate market trends, develop solutions and increase speed to market with projects benefitting from input from around the world.
DuPont has 70,000 employees in 90 countries making everything from polymers and biofuels to adhesives and whiteners.
“We are creating knowledge at a pace never seen before and innovation puts that knowledge into applications and actions,” said Cole.
“The auto industry is the most complex in the world and most people don’t know it,” Cole said.
Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press.