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Volkswagen Group PhD Day in Wolfsburg: 600 experts, 95 theses

More than 600 experts attended Volkswagen Group’s PhD Day, when 95 young scientists presented their research findings at the MobileLifeCampus in Wolfsburg, Germany. PhD students from the Volkswagen Passenger Cars, ŠKODA, Audi, Porsche, MAN and Scania brands as well as from Volkswagen Group China presented their doctoral theses on topics from twelve different specialist departments.

26 young scientists conducted research in the field of drive technology; 14 in production; eleven in electronics; 11 in vehicle technology; and nine focused on various aspects of human resources, organization and IT. Their projects focused on topics such as driver assistance systems; personnel development; e-mobility; and sales and marketing. In total, Volkswagen supports some 490 young men and women studying for their doctorates.

Innovative strength is a decisive competitive factor in the automotive industry. The Volkswagen Group with its twelve brands and locations all over the world offers young scientists outstanding conditions for researching into projects in a host of different areas. The spectrum ranges from technical development, production and human resources to sales and marketing. Volkswagen is thus fostering highly-qualified talent that is crucial to the company’s future success.

—Dr. Horst Neumann, Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft responsible for Human Resources, Organization and IT

For example, Stefanie Blabl (Electronics) explained her findings on adapting media content to driver status in a presentation entitled “Podcast or music?” Serdal Sivri (Production) discussed his research on “Process-oriented knowledge management in model upgrading”. Katharina Lenz (Human Resources and Organization) introduced her findings on her research subject of “Expectations and qualification potential of MINT dual study programs”.

Volkswagen’s PhD program. In Germany, doctorates are awarded by institutions—usually a university or college—with “Promotionsrecht”: the right to award the doctorate. According to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the “traditional” or “individual” path to a PhD remains the most common.

An individual doctorate involves the thesis or dissertation being produced under the supervision of a professor who supervises a PhD student, who in turn works on his subject in consultation with the professor, but largely independently. Three to five years is a normal time span. Doctoral candidates can choose where they would like to conduct their research:

  • a university;
  • a non-university research organisation; or
  • in a German company—e.g., Volkswagen.

Doctoral candidates at a company also need a university professor to supervise their research. In some cases, the employer already collaborates with a university or research institute.

PhD students at Volkswagen complete their doctorates within three years, cooperating closely with the relevant specialist department, which nominates a mentor to guide them during their research. Volkswagen PhD students receive a temporary contract and enjoy many typical Volkswagen benefits; there are opportunities for permanent employment at Volkswagen once the doctorate has been completed.

The objective of the doctorate program is to have future topics of relevance to the company investigated through the work of the doctoral candidates. Volkswagen, the candidate and the professor determine the subject of the thesis.

The PhD student forum, made up of current Volkswagen PhD students and alumni, fosters networking among the young scientists. The forum itself and all of its activities are organized by various working groups run by the students themselves.

AutoUni. Volkswagen also runs AutoUni—a Group-owned institute of further education with a scientific focus. It offers a range of education courses that cover professional family-specific and cross-professional family knowledge, and incorporates new findings and methods from research into the company.

AutoUni supports the ongoing professional development of the experts and specialists in the Group by facilitating the acquisition of specialist academic knowledge. The aim of AutoUni is to improve the level of technical excellence within the professional families and to promote networking amongst the specialists.

As AutoUni is a Group-owned institution of further education, its training measures are aimed at all employees of the various brands, across all locations. The programs are run by the various AutoUni institutes. For example, the Institute for Automotive Technology offers training measures in areas including electric mobility, materials, chassis and energy and environment.

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