Ford and NextEnergy today issued a challenge for suppliers to come up with advanced automotive lighting products.
Bigger than the $40,000 in contest money to be won is the opportunity for suppliers to get on Ford’s radar screen and maybe score future contracts. Ford wants to establish itself as a leader in automotive lighting and NextEnergy, which is a Detroit-based accelerator of advanced energy technologies, wants to establish the region as a center of expertise and innovation in this field. The program is also supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. which wants to identify qualified Michigan suppliers.
The technology innovation challenge was announced today at a lighting exposition for 30 suppliers and would-be suppliers at Ford’s Product Development Center in Dearborn.
“Ford is very interested in maintaining leadership with the use of innovative lighting for the benefit of our customers,” said Dean Stevenson, chief engineer, Ford Global Design Engineering.
Among the categories is the featherweight challenge that will reward the supplier that creates the greatest amount of light with the lowest weight. All automakers are looking to remove weight from every part of the vehicle to improve fuel economy.
Another challenge is to find ways to lower the cost of existing lighting technology and design it for high-volume production.
Ford is also interested in interior ceiling light-emitting diode lights that emulate daylight. The 2010 Ford Mustang added LED taillights and the new 2015 F-150 uses LEDs for the headlamps, side mirrors and cargo bed lights. The automaker also wants to incorporate the lighting into seats and door panels.
Wayne Bahr, chief engineer, Ford Global Body Exterior Systems, said the challenge “should help us innovate faster and increase the capability of our lighting supply base.”
Another area of research is in recyclable lighting technology, including biodegradable lights.
Further details such as how many awards will be given and the exact criteria will be released at the Michigan Advanced Lighting Conference in Lansing on Nov. 19.
In late 2015 competing teams will present their ideas to a panel of Ford and NextEnergy experts who will determine the winners and award the prize money from the MEDC and NextEnergy.
“NextEnergy’s collaboration with Ford will encourage open innovation,” said Jean Redfield, CEO of NextEnergy. “While this technology challenge will solicit global solutions, we expect Michigan’s advanced lighting industry to be among the solution providers, driving significant economic activity in the state.”
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