Our program in Germany will cover five main tracks, namely Automation, Connectivity, Shared Use, Electrification and Open Innovation. And while a diverse and tech-hungry business like Magna is interested in every one of these aspects, Automation is one with a particular focus following the recent launch of MAX4.
A fully integrated, customizable and scalable autonomous driving sensing and compute platform that can enable up to Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities, MAX4 is an example of Magna’s ambition in this area. Making platforms that can work with all the big brands shows that the company is not content to stay in the shadows of auto manufacturers that might happen to be household names.
“We continue to try and push the boundaries of innovation for products,” says Simmons, who will act as one of the jury for the Automation pitching sessions. “For anyone in the automotive world right now, there is a huge amount going on in innovation and technology. And for us autonomous vehicles are a big push towards coming up with IP and technologies that will enable autonomous capability in the future. We’re leading a lot of that work today.
“We had a very good experience with Pioneers in 2017 and we wanted to repeat that next year, perhaps with a higher profile. And since we continue to look for new innovations and technologies that we can add to our product portfolio, it’s a natural fit.”
“Last year people came along that were a fit for Magna, both on the automotive product side and on the manufacturing side. We had interaction with people who recognize the value of Tier ones. They were all proactive and interested in sharing information with us, so it was just overall a very good experience.
“As part of the prizegiving process we also managed to highlight who Magna is and why we were there. I think a lot of people don’t specifically know those things, even if they’re familiar with the name. They don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
And that outline is important when it comes to Magna forming partnerships with startups, says Simmons. Because sometimes innovators don’t actually know that they might be sitting on an application that might be useful to big companies.
“In many cases when we talk to startups or companies in other vertical spaces, they will have a technology or an innovation that they don’t understand has a direct implication into automotive or manufacturing. So not only is it important for us to talk to people who understand what mobility and automotive is, but also to other industries that have new technologies but might not understand their relevance to automotive and manufacturing.”
Thanks to the careful startup selection process, Magna will once again be able to count on meeting startups that might not have ‘mobility’ or ‘automation’ on their labels but nonetheless have synergies. Startups are growing in awareness, thanks to the increased buzz and awareness around automation in particular.
“Our message is that we’re open for business and looking for companies to bring their technologies. And if we think it’s applicable then we think we’re a good partner to work with!
“Two or three years ago we had to go out and explain who we are and why we had an interest in these technologies. Now I think the message is finally resonating. Now they at least come and talk to us. People are now saying ‘hey, I’ve got this new widget, we think it fits automotive.’ And we obviously engage accordingly.
“Companies that are curious about what automation and mobility is going forward are attracted to attend the event because it’s a learning process for them. And for us to have a voice expressing our needs is obviously important.”