Ford and TechShop Team Up in Detroit, So Anyone Can Make the Next Jump In Auto Tech

Posted by at 4:08 am on July 30, 2010

Ford, the only US auto maker that did not need a government bail out, is working with TechShop to have an open workshop in the Detroit area so anyone, from backyard tinkerers to software engineers, can come in and experience the next must-have in auto technolgy.

Only 3 months ago, Ford and TechShop met for the first time at the largest DIY event of its kind, 2010 Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif. Ford was invited to the event to show off its “American Journey 2.0” open- innovation vehicle app project with University of Michigan students.

A Place to Invent

TechShop is a membership based open access concept started in 2006,  which offers affordable access to space, tools, and machinery. Right now TechShop has locations in California and North Carolina, with more than 800 total members.

“Ford has taken a leadership role in tapping ideas from outside the automotive space, including with academia, consumer electronics and information technology companies, to help create powerful first-to-market technologies such as Ford SYNC. Why not extend those opportunities to individual inventors and the maker community as well; asking them to embrace the vehicle as a possible platform for their ideas,” said K. Venkatesh Prasad, group and senior technical leader, Ford Infotronics Research and Advanced Engineering.

Ford technical leaders will share the company’s vision on individual inventive contributions and how Detroit-area entrepreneurs can play a part during the Detroit Maker Faire held at The Henry Ford in Dearborn this weekend.

Ford is the first automaker to collaborate with TechShop, said Mark Hatch, TechShop CEO. “We are thrilled that Ford wants to work with TechShop to create a game-changing innovative workspace in Detroit, a market area full of a talented community of makers, hobbyists, backyard mechanics and general tinkerers that we have been trying to enter for more than a year.”

Open Innovation and a Conversation with Customers

The Ford and TechShop collaboration is  just another example  of Ford’s adoption of  an open innovation model  to reach out to likely and  unlikely groups and people as partners.

In recent years, Ford’s outreach to automotive outsiders for ideas has included a who’s who list of academia, suppliers, consumer electronics and information technology companies. That list also includes more unlikely suspects, such as consumers and software developers.

Last spring, for example, Ford actively engaged consumers to submit, share and suggest ideas and technologies on the “Your Ideas” section of the Ford brand interactive consumer Web site, www.thefordstory.com. The pilot session generated some 3,600 submissions, giving consumers the ability to participate in a community-based setting where they could review and rate posted ideas and track what people thought about their own suggestions.

And, more recently, Ford announced the creation of a virtual community to engage software developers to innovate around SYNC. Interested developers can visit the SYNCmyride Web site and click to submit their innovative ideas, and sign up for the latest information and news about the upcoming SYNC application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK). Through July, nearly 800 app developers have signed up.

In theory, the collaboration with TechShop is an easy extension of the individual engagement fostered by open-source initiatives such as “Your Ideas” and the new SYNC developer network.

Ford also hopes that the TechShop will inspire its own Detroit-area engineers, designers and scientists to innovate on their own time. “Inventors don’t have access to the same type of equipment or tools during off-hours as they do during work hours,” said Hatch. “We want to offer them an affordable place to go that has the necessary equipment and resources to make their inventive ideas a reality.”

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