Ford to open tech innovation hub in UK
Ford is opening a tech innovation centre in London
Ford is opening a tech innovation centre in London. Image Credit: Ford

Ford to open tech innovation hub in UK

Automotive company Ford is to open a new London office to focus on new technologies, including the potential development of driverless cars.

Ford of Europe, the European subsidiary of the US carmaker, is opening what it classifies as a Smart Mobility Innovation Office – the third of its kind globally, after its Dearborn, Michigan and Palo Alto, California offices.

It will be located on the Here East Campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and will have an initial capacity for 40 tech specialists. The location is close to the company’s current trials in London, including the plug-in hybrid Transit Fleet project which is launching later this year. The Transit Fleet project is a multi-million pound initiative to explore how lower-emission electric vans could support cleaner air targets while also boosting productivity for operators in urban conditions.

Read more: Ford boosts autonomous vehicle program with AI investment

Access to expertise

Ford said that the new office will give a team of highly-skilled Ford specialists easy access to world-class digital companies, leading academic institutions and existing partners as it develops smart mobility products that meet the needs of Europe’s major cities.

The campus is also home to Loughborough University which is one of the automaker’s longest standing UK university research partners, and Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), which Ford has worked with on powertrain research this year.

The company suggested that The Olympic Park’s unique private road network might also be used for testing in the future.

“Basing our rapidly growing team here in the heart of mobility innovation in London is critical to accelerating our learning and development of new technologies. The location at Here East will allow us greater collaboration and the out-of-the-box thinking needed to tackle the urban transport challenges of tomorrow,” said Steven Armstrong, group vice president and president of the EMEA region at Ford Motor Company, at the opening of London Tech Week.

Read more: Driverless cars are coming, despite consumer doubts, says OpenText

Intellectual capital

Ian Hughes, IoT analyst at IT advisory organisation 451 Research, suggested that the new office is about developing intellectual capital and building on already close partnerships with Loughborough University, so that Ford can tap into the key digital skills already available in the UK, as well as test new ideas.

“The UK also has a long standing tradition of innovation in automotive engineering, with a number of F1 teams based nearby, for example. In the flux of leaving the European Union, the UK may also able to offer a less strict regulatory environment to suit the near-stage growth of autonomous vehicles,” he said.

“The announcement of any investment in autonomous vehicles and development of a skill base to support them seems a positive step for the country,” he added.