Corporate Spotlight Interview: Magna International

March 19, 2015 09:19 PM EST By: Regina Ramazzini

TechConnect speakers with Swamy Kotagiri, CTO, Magna International

  Magna Swamy Kotagiri

What are technology/solution areas that you have primary interest in?

Innovation is a foundation of Magna’s past success, an important factor in our competitiveness, a key operational priority and a critical element of our business strategy.  Our current strategic focus on innovation is aimed at developing products, processes and materials that fit within one of the four innovation pillars:  Smarter, Safer, Cleaner and Lighter. 

Smarter products that provide increased comfort and convenience such as Magna’s PureViewTM seamless sliding window on the all new Ford F-150 pick-up. 

Safer products with enhanced active and passive safety features like our next generation of our innovative EYERIS driver assistance system.  Building on the previous EYERIS platform which included lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and forward collision warning features, the new system incorporates lane keeping assistance, glare-free high beams and collision mitigation systems, as well as increased memory and processing power.

Cleaner products that promote efficiency and sustainability by optimizing the use of energy such as our ActimaxTM—an All-Wheel Drive system that provides intelligent distribution of torque between front and rear axles. The intelligent system contributes to improved safety through enhanced traction and vehicle control by detecting and actively adapting to changing ground conditions, including demanding conditions such as snow and ice. The innovative pump-less design reduces spin losses by greater than 30% providing improved fuel economy over conventional four-wheel drive systems.

Lighter products using lightweight material and science to reduce vehicle mass like our SmartlatchTM an industry first innovation featured on the BMW i8 plug-in electric sports car. It requires no cables, rods or moving handles in the door, resulting in significant weight savings and a reduced number of components, improved safety and sound quality.

What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?

We review all potential technologies for their technology readiness level to determine the best course of engagement.  We are not tied to any particular technology readiness level.  If we see potential in a technology that makes strategic sense for Magna, we will get involved.  However, most common engagement happens at near proof of concept or above. 

Please describe your company’s innovation model & how this model helps to find new innovations.

More than simply a good idea, Magna innovations must meet certain criteria, even in the way we choose to define it. For Magna, innovation means commercialized invention. No idea is good enough if the market cannot sustain it.

We have a disciplined approach to innovation.  We first start by identifying the megatrends, which are the drivers of new technologies.  We then seek to understand the key drivers and legislative trends that impact the automotive industry.  The key drivers are aligned with our product portfolio, which we categorize under four pillars:  Smarter, Safer, Cleaner, Lighter.  This process helps us identify the unmet needs and gaps where new technologies or solutions are needed to meet our customer’s demands. 

We are   always asking ‘Is there a better way to do this?’ or ‘Is there an unmet need in the industry right now?’ For instance, with growing vehicle connectivity and the shift from mechanical to software-based systems, companies are trying to figure out how to make sure critical data is secure. Ensuring the data is secure is an unmet need that many in the industry are trying to figure out.  We have a history of taking great ideas and developing them from innovation to industry standard.  We also know that great thinking can happen outside our four walls and that’s why we work with technical institutions, the venture capital community, numerous universities and potential inventors, entrepreneurs and startups to help bring ideas to market. 

Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector.  Who are you looking to meet with?

Innovation is one of Magna’s top priorities along with World Class Manufacturing and Leadership Development.  We are committed to developing an innovation pipeline.  TechConnect as a partner brings industry, entrepreneurs, investors and government together.  We want to take advantage of this convergence to continue the engagement process with these groups – seeking new technologies and discovering potential business relationships.


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