This is Part 3 of the series Campuses in North Brabant. In the next weeks, we will publish the profiles of all 8 innovation campuses that were mentioned in the recent study by Buck Consultants International (BCI). Every Tuesday we highlight one of them. Today we focus on High Tech Automotive Campus Helmond. Here are all the articles that have already been published.

The High Tech Automotive Campus Helmond is one of the seven growth campuses in the Netherlands. Its ecosystem of innovative mobility solutions and collaboration between automotive education and the automotive industry makes it a hotspot of the mobility of tomorrow.

Open innovation in smart and green mobility

High Tech Automotive Campus Helmond is a meeting place of more than 600 engineers and researchers, 100 automotive students from different educational levels, and 42 companies and organisations who collaborate on smart, safe, and sustainable mobility solutions.

As sharing knowledge and experience is crucial for the ever-changing development of Smart and Green Mobility, open innovation and collaboration are encouraged at the Campus. “We are creating an ecosystem of companies and facilities which will be otherwise difficult for individual companies to set up on their own. Besides, we have a unique combination of government institutions, knowledge institutes and academics, industry, and education – all physically here,” said Lex Boon, Campus Director.

According to Boon, open innovation is essential for the Campus growth. However, he added that “the companies who do a lot of testing and certification work are not interested at this point of time to share information, therefore, open innovation is quite a difficult concept for them. Confidentiality is a big thing for them.” On the contrary, “the new companies that have come to the Campus – young startups and scale-ups, have much more willingness and interest in learning from one another and sharing knowledge.  They are knocking on doors, asking questions, and trying to work together with other residents of the Campus.” This is why the Campus encourages open innovation by organising and facilitating various seminars, conferences, workshops, and networking and matchmaking events which are open for everyone. “We invite everyone and we will continue to push in this direction.” 

Collaboration between industry and education

One of the most characteristic features of the Automotive Campus Helmond is its collaboration between automotive industry and automotive education. The Campus is a working and learning environment which accommodates ACE (Automotive Centre of Expertise), MBO Automotive Center, a SUMMA college building, and a brand new Fontys University of Applied Sciences building. Their automotive students continuously study by engaging in real-life projects.

This collaboration adapts education to the rapidly changing industry world. “At the Campus, we have vocational education, bachelor program, master programs, and student teams from TU/e a who have their workshops here. Education and industry are physically here. I feel it is very important that vocational education is present at the Campus – so it is not only knowledge workers but also the technically skilled people. These vocational students work together with industry on various projects. And the student teams are not only multidisciplinary but also multi-levelled in education and that is quite unique.”

Hotspot of smart mobility and technologies of the future

One prominent example of the collaboration between automotive industry and automotive education is Lightyear – the startup building the “revolutionary” solar car which charges itself. Founded by 5 Solar Team Eindhoven alumni, the startup won the prestigious Climate Change Award at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year.

“Lightyear is building a 3,000-metreproduction facility at the Campus. Last August there were 12 people on the team and now they have grown to 40. By September, they will have their production facility here where they will build their prototypes. We are very excited about this development,” Boon said.  

Besides, the Automotive Campus Helmond has it own “living lab”, as Boon called it. That is the stretch of highway between Eindhoven and Helmond where companies conduct experimental testing on a daily basis. “This where a lot of early-stage development is tested, for example, new hardware, new software, and communication systems – all the things you need for a later stage autonomous driving. And it is all done at the Campus.”

 

Featured image: © Ronald Otter