Jorge Vázquez
R&D Center Director
Continental Automotive
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Better Talent, New Skills for Future Automotive Tech: Vázquez

By MBN Staff | Mon, 04/01/2019 - 14:16

Q: What advances has the Continental R&D center in Queretaro made in its first year of operations?

A: We have focused our efforts mostly on stabilizing our operations since our inauguration in May 2018. We have achieved significant growth momentum. In 2018, Continental’s R&D centers in Queretaro and Guadalajara hired 600 people and Queretaro took most of those engineers. In its first year of operations, the Queretaro R&D center has developed a solid staff base of 400 engineers and advanced the construction of its infrastructure. Around 150 of the engineers at Queretaro’s center were transferred from Guadalajara, which ensures a healthy mix of newcomers and people with experience in Continental’s technology to explore new business opportunities in Central Mexico.

Q: How important are Continental’s R&D centers for the company’s global engineering and design operations?

A: Mexico is among the company’s Top 5 hubs in innovation thanks to the high number of inventions that we develop, which gives us the possibility to attract the right kind of talent to our organization. Our staff is not only focused on regular engineering activities but also on developing their own ideas, which makes Continental’s R&D centers in Mexico some of the biggest generators of ideas per engineer.

Our training programs at the Guadalajara center yielded positive results, which enticed the company to consider replicating that success in the Bajio region. We have developed a series of specialized training programs for engineers in Queretaro to counter the challenges of a limited talent pool. We plan to employ more than 1,200 engineers at the Queretaro center at some point between 2024 and 2027.

Q: How is Continental working with other research and innovation centers?

A: We have started some technology exploration projects with CENAM and have developed synergies with public dependencies, such as the Mexican Transportation Institute (IMT), to test our new developments. We also work with several academic institutions that want to develop new technological capacities and we are exploring cooperation options with CIDESI and CIATEQ. Continental’s interaction with public research centers faces some challenges due to some policies of the new federal administration that restrict the ability of these centers to carry out projects for the automotive industry.

Continental needs to develop the right engineering talent, facilities and culture before interacting more strongly with the local research environment. We are interested in pursuing collaboration projects with public research centers to make Queretaro an attractive destination for the mobility industry of the future.

Q: What will be Mexico’s role in developing components for the car of the future?

A: Rather than mere production and component supply for OEMs, Mexican suppliers should focus on developing added-value capabilities related to computer science, IT systems and artificial intelligence. Tier 1 suppliers like Continental look for partners with such capabilities and that can apply them to the needs of the automotive industry. We look for ways to either acquire these companies or to collaborate with them to generate value for our operations. If Mexican suppliers want to be part of the industry’s transformation, they should be looking for ways to contribute something that does not exist in the global market and that OEMs and their direct suppliers are looking for.

Q: What opportunities will EVs and self-driving vehicles create for Continental’s R&D operations in Mexico?

A: Continental’s innovations are for the world, not just for the Mexican market. Regardless of where OEMs decide to assemble their vehicles, Continental Mexico’s R&D operations will follow the automakers’ global strategies. The fact that OEMs are working to assemble advanced technologies for electrified and self-driving vehicles in Mexico offers an opportunity for knowledge to trickle down the chain and for the Mexican automotive industry to get ready to supply what will be needed in the future.

Q: What challenges do self-driving vehicles face to become part of the mainstream?

A: We expect to see fully autonomous vehicles at some point between 2025 and 2030. However, these cars will only reach the roads when technology and the regulations necessary for these vehicles to operate are mature enough. So far, only a handful of countries have created the necessary infrastructure for these vehicles to operate along with regulations that, for instance, assign responsibilities for drivers and owners of self-driving cars.

 

Continental is a technology company with operations in 60 countries. The company has two R&D centers in Mexico, one in Guadalajara and one in Queretaro, where several technologies for the car of the future are developed

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