Volkswagen Group of America and the University of Tennessee announced a collaboration to create Volkswagen’s first innovation hub in North America at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. Initial work will focus on developing lighter vehicle components made from composite materials, the electrification of vehicles, and other automotive innovation.
The collaboration, which will include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, involves research opportunities for doctoral students and space in the Innovation North building at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm in Knoxville.
The hub marks the culmination of years of collaboration since Volkswagen opened its Chattanooga Assembly plant in 2011. The facility assembles the Volkswagen Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs, specifically designed for the North American market. This past fall, Volkswagen of America broke ground on a new electric vehicle production facility, which includes a 564,000-square-foot body shop addition and up to 1,000 new jobs.
UT Chattanooga and Volkswagen developed an MBA program that lets Volkswagen employees earn the degree by taking classes at the plant or on campus. Volkswagen also is a member of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a cooperative agreement between UT Knoxville and the Department of Energy. As a part of this, Volkswagen engineers and UT researchers and their collaborators created a novel composite liftgate for the Volkswagen Atlas that reduces weight by 35 percent, as well as reducing investment cost.
The new innovation hub in Knoxville will join Volkswagen’s larger global innovation ecosystem. This includes innovation centers in Belmont, California; Wolfsburg, Germany; and Beijing, China, along with innovation hubs in Barcelona, Spain; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Tokyo, Japan.
The Innovation and Engineering Center California in Belmont opened in 1998 with three employees and now has grown to more than 200 engineers, scientists, designers and psychologists. Their work bridges the gap between Silicon Valley technology and the automotive group. Each center manages the regional innovation ecosystem by designing collaborative mobility concepts.