Alliance between Ford and KU Leuven opens doors for close collaborations

In August 2016, KU Leuven entered into a framework agreement with Ford Motor Company’s Global Research and Advanced Engineering department, making KU Leuven the second European university in Ford’s External Alliance Network. Both partners desire to collaborate in research and education programs of mutual interest and benefit. Ford wants to develop and sustain research alliances with world-class research institutes, which are capable of collaborating with Ford in the development and utilization of new advanced technologies.

This framework agreement sets the rules for future collaborations between Ford and KU Leuven. The agreement defines how projects should be managed and how they are financed, and deals with intellectual property rights, payments and confidentiality. Ford has also become aware of the centers of excellence at KU Leuven, which are of interest to them, allowing Ford to turn to KU Leuven more easily when it needs specific research expertise. The framework agreement opens doors for close collaborations between Ford and the KU Leuven and will have a positive impact on the number of collaborative research projects. 

Within the framework agreement two projects were already approved in 2016. Ford set up a collaboration with the additive manufacturing research group (Professor Van Hooreweder) of the Production Engineering, Machine Design and Automation Section of the KU Leuven Department of Mechanical Engineering. Additive manufacturing (AM) of metal parts is common business at Ford. Often metal AM parts are produced for prototypes or tools. To fully utilize the potential of additive manufacturing, the mechanical properties and fatigue resistance have to be understood in detail. With the help of KU Leuven, Ford wants to investigate the influence of the additive manufacturing process parameters on the durability and fatigue properties of metal AM-parts. If Ford could implement metal additive manufactured prototypes and would no longer need e.g. to stamp prototype parts, that could lead to significant time and cost savings thanks to reduced product development time cycles. 

In a second project, Ford cooperates with the KU Leuven Faculty of Economics and Business (Professor Bart Leten) and Vlerick Business School (Professor Walter van Dyck) to design and test an innovation process to leverage the value of startups for Ford’s future mobility offerings.  To maximize stakeholder value in the mobility ecosystem, Ford is actively exploring partnering opportunities with ‘complementors’ in this ecosystem.  Current mobility offerings under development at Ford could become interesting platforms for startups to get access to the growing, global mobility market.  With the help of KU Leuven and Vlerick Business School, Ford will improve its current engagement process and prepare a practical application in the near future.