Research investment and close collaboration between research institutes and industry is crucial to the future development of Swedish manufacturing. This is demonstrated clearly by the many years of co-operation between Volvo and Chalmers as well as experience from other sectors of Swedish industry. When production is moved to another country research often disappears, which in turn leads to reduced potential for the operations that are left to succeed and develop. Studies at Chalmers on Swedish production of electrotechnical products and telecom equipment during the nineties show clear connections between production and research. When the manufacturing of electrotechnical products, like white goods, and telecom equipment, moved abroad the Swedish research within these sectors decreased, which led to further decrease in production in Sweden. From having had a substantially higher export than import within both sectors the figures for Sweden today are even.
“Companies that fail to understand the value of a strong link between research, product development and production risk suffering the same fate as the shipyards,” states Chalmers professor Anders Kinnander.
The automotive industry in western Sweden includes the manufacturing of vehicles and vehicle components, research and education. Chalmers has worked for a long time with the automotive industry in these areas and all the parties involved welcome the proposals for strengthening research that have been presented by the government. To further reinforce the region, AB Volvo, the Volvo Car Corporation and Chalmers have decided to intensify their co-operation.
The expansion in research co-operation between Volvo and Chalmers will take place through the new “Volvo Framework Programme”. In a letter of intent signed by the parties, three areas of technology are highlighted: environment (diesel engines), vehicle safety and vehicle electronics. The environment and safety are core values for both the Volvo Group and Volvo Cars but together with electronics they are also areas in which Chalmers has solid experience and frontline expertise.
In the work in the future a general steering committee will be appointed as well as working groups for the different areas of technology. These will be responsible for creating project portfolios within each area. Projects will be run with access to both the collective resources at Chalmers at the different schools and the R&D resources in industry. The projects are based on doctoral students who are supervised by both the University and industry. The work will be supplemented by experienced personnel from all parties. This working form will promote an exchange of know-how and experience between industry and Chalmers.
The aim is to reach a level where there are ten doctoral students in each area of technology.
Automotive research is a strategically important area that will be prioritised in the long term to ensure future development. Chalmers is therefore undertaking to make high quality research and education resources available for the Volvo Framework Programme, including doctoral students and established researchers. Researchers with a good international reputation will also be recruited with support from industry, further reinforcing the selected areas of technology.
The running of the Volvo Framework Programme assumes substantial government financing, which the parties will work together to secure.