Dearborn, U.S.A – For more than a century Ford Motor Company has been a leading automotive industry innovator, launching breakthroughs in areas as diverse as manufacturing, safety, propulsion systems and vehicle design. On 31 May 2012 Ford is reaching beyond its boundaries to encourage entrepreneurship and the sharing of ideas to facilitate innovation that can help not only the company, but more importantly, the community at large to create a better world.
“There was a time not so long ago in this business when ideas that were ‘not invented here’ got easily dismissed,” says William Coughlin, CEO, Ford Global Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company that manages the company’s intellectual property portfolio. “The competitive pressures in the auto industry today are greater than ever, with demands for improving quality, safety, technology and of course fuel efficiency, so we are both encouraging and looking for new ideas wherever we can find them.”
Ford is launching several major initiatives to support entrepreneurship and surface technological innovation in southeast Michigan. In addition to the recent improvement to the Patent Incentive Program that provides Ford employee inventors with a three-month free membership to TechShop Detroit, Ford is also looking for new ideas from outside.
“TechShop is a place where entrepreneurs and other makers have access to over one million dollars of tools, software and high-end equipment that allow them to rapidly and inexpensively prototype,” said Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop. “Innovation happens when you add community and crowdsourcing into the mix – which is exactly what the Motor City Innovation Exchange will do for our members, the automotive industry and anyone in the greater Detroit area who has an idea they want to turn into a reality.”
Motor City Innovation Exchange, AutoHarvest and TechTown
Creators with ideas that have been fleshed out need to put them into action and that’s where the Motor City Innovation Exchange comes into play.
“Bringing TechShop to Detroit was the critical first step in the creation of the Innovation Exchange,” says Coughlin. “It will be an open meeting place that will enable inventors to showcase what they create in TechShop and then negotiate, network and even sell their prototyped solutions to players in the automotive industry, from manufacturers and suppliers to research institutions and startups.”
The Innovation Exchange is also a physical extension of Detroit-based AutoHarvest Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up by several respected automotive executives to facilitate connections between the industry and Metro Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ford Global Technologies, along with other automakers, suppliers, universities and research centers actively support AutoHarvest. The goal is to build a vibrant marketplace for licensing technological innovation across and beyond the auto industry.
Until now, there has been a major disconnect between having a great idea and being able to sell or license it to companies that can actually put it to use. For those not already in the industry, making the right connections to present a new concept or product has been a daunting task. AutoHarvest and Innovation Exchange hope to provide a platform for commercializing the intellectual property created by everyday inventors, industry insiders, universities and research labs.
TechTown, the Wayne State University business incubator, will hold regular “office hours” sessions at Innovation Exchange to provide informal business support to TechShop members and other innovators. Exchange participants will be able to take advantage of free or low-cost workshops on a variety of relevant topics presented by TechTown instructors.
“Innovation Exchange is all about helping to spread the word about the innovation happening both inside and outside of TechShop, and giving the creators the foundational resources they need to understand how to sell and commercialize their idea and connect with the right players while respecting their intellectual property,” says Coughlin.
Jump Start Program
TechShop members with big ideas for a startup and a need for affordable working space can participate in a new Jump Start Program that offers discounted rental rates in Ford Land buildings in the Allen Park and Dearborn area.
Because of the diversity of projects being developed at TechShop, Ford Land will be flexible in providing suitable space that fits the specific needs of participants. The space, including locations adjacent to TechShop Detroit, can be used by individuals or small businesses for a variety of purposes including office, garage, lab and assembly use. Interested TechShop members can access information at http://fordland.com.
“Supporting innovation and entrepreneurialism benefits the entire region,” said Donna Inch, chairman and CEO, Ford Land. “By lowering startup costs, we will enable more businesses to get off the ground and have a better chance of being successful.”
“Like every industry, the automobile business was built and thrived on innovation,” said Coughlin. “As personal transportation is reinvented in the 21st century, the challenges facing the industry are greater than ever and fresh ideas are essential to success.”
“Ford is pleased to be leading the way through its connections with TechShop, AutoHarvest Foundation and TechTown,” he added.