Interview Brief with Swamy Kotagiri, CTO at Magna International
What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?When we look at some of the global trends taking shape over the next 30 years, as the second largest auto parts supplier in the world, we ask ourselves: what do they mean to the auto industry, and even more important, what do they mean to Magna and our product portfolio?
For example our industry mainly uses fossil fuels today, yet as we continue to evolve and different propulsion systems and alternative energy sources increase in availability and use, what will this mean to the car of the future? With the emergence of mega-cities and global population predicted to rise from 7 to 9 billion people, what will that mean to the auto industry and Magna to have such large concentrations of people in a given geographic area? As ride sharing increases and expected to reach a global membership of 12 million by 2020, what impact or opportunity will it have?
These are just some of the areas we are fully engaged in as we align our product portfolio with the car of the future trends and we categorize them into three major areas:
• Active safety & autonomous driving
• Legislative and regulatory
• Comfort and convenience
Across these three categories we have a number of initiatives taking place and our corporate and group R&D teams are working closely together to address the car of the future.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
If we see potential in a certain technology and/or process that fits into our overall product strategy and aligns with market trends, then we get involved to learn more. Our involvement could be in the form of purely exploration, a potential investment and/or possible partnership.
Please describe your company’s Innovation model and how this model helps to find new innovations.
Magna has a history of taking great ideas and developing them from innovation to industry standard but we also know that great thinking can happen outside our four walls and we are open to working with potential inventors, entrepreneurs and startups to help bring ideas to market.
We are always asking ‘Is there a better way to do this?’ or ‘Is there an unmet need in the industry right now?’
Magna has a disciplined approach to innovation. We first start by understanding the megatrends, which drive technologies in active safety, legislation and/or comfort and convenience. We then align our product portfolio accordingly and categorize our innovations under four pillars: Smarter, Safer, Cleaner, Lighter. This process helps us identify the unmet needs and gaps where new technologies and/or solutions are needed to meet our customer’s demands.
For Magna, no idea is good enough if the market cannot sustain it. Therefore, we define innovation as commercialized invention.
Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?
Innovation is the lifeblood of successful companies and that is one it is one of Magna’s top priorities. We are committed to developing and commercializing new ideas and keeping the innovation pipeline strong. TechConnect, as a partner, brings industry, entrepreneurs, investors and government together. It is partnerships like these that we want to take full advantage to continue the engagement process – seeking new technologies and discovering potential business relationships.
What did you like most about the 2015 conferences?
The TechConnect National Innovation Summit 2015 provided a large cross group of technologies and offered the opportunity to engage directly with the inventors, entrepreneurs and stake holders.
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