Mexican R&D Center to Focus on EV BatteriesBy Alejandro Enríquez | Wed, 04/14/2021 - 06:00
Q: How does CIDETEQ support the automotive sector in the Bajio area?
A: Last year was very particular but we were able to complete some projects with Honda. CIDETEQ has a vibration chamber where vehicle components can be tested to determine their life cycle. This has been really attractive to the sector.
At CIDETEQ, we have a laboratory that deals with corrosion, which is one of the top facilities in the country. After several negotiations, in 2017 we established an agreement with ZUGA to install testing chambers at our facilities. Both ZUGA and CIDETEQ promote services related to these chambers among Japanese companies and companies working according to Japanese standards. Our weather chambers support exclusively Japanese companies, which has brought us a really interesting market as these companies are strict in their testing. Japanese companies play a prominent role in the Bajio area and many companies have landed in the region in recent years, which creates an opportunity for CIDETEQ’s projects and services.
Q: How has CIDETEQ adapted to the ongoing trends in the automotive sector?
A: There are two major challenges for the sector. First, the testing and analysis that we do on a regular basis have been evolving to address the challenges of additive and smart manufacturing. Second, suppliers are also required to evolve alongside the sector, which means paying close attention to components being subjected to corrosion and vibration. CIDETEQ has evolved accordingly, offering really specific analyses.
Q: As a chemical-oriented research center, what is your perspective on electric vehicles?
A: This is a personal passion of mine. Last year, the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to ion-lithium battery research. As an electrochemical center, batteries are part of our core analysis. Our bet is addressing challenges related to battery development. We are creating a working and research group to focus solely on this topic. Electric vehicles open up opportunities but we should set a clear focus since it is a really broad topic.
Q: What is CIDETEQ’s contribution to post-graduate engineering education?
A: CIDETEQ has four main areas. First, there is the tech service area, which is a certified laboratory that serves the sector. Second, we have our research area where we develop projects with a tech development focus. The third is our technological area that solves particular problems faced by the private sector. Finally, we have our graduate studies. We have two M.Sc. programs, one focused on electrochemistry and another on environmental science, as well as Ph.D. programs. Educated professionals develop their own research lines, creating an R&D network.
Q: How do partnerships with clusters and companies work for CIDETEQ?
A: We have participated in the Queretaro Automotive Cluster for several years. When companies are faced with a problem, the research center makes a proposal to address it. We can also collaborate when both parties have a partial solution.
Q: How has the federal government’s focus on science and technology influenced CIDETEQ’s labor?
A: We were used to working in a certain way and new policies move us out of our comfort zone. I see change as a positive. In particular, CONACYT has prioritized projects with a tangible technological outcome and a potential market. Overall, bringing new projects to the market is a good thing.
Q: How do industrial and intellectual property issues work with projects developed by CIDETEQ?
A: It is a matter of negotiation. We have worked on different projects and have taken different approaches. We always agree to each party reserving the rights to its own developments. We need to build upon mutual trust to advance.
Q: What are the first steps that a company should take to work with CIDETEQ?
A: Companies need only to pick up the phone. Most of our projects are born from word of mouth or current customers pointing us in the right direction. Social networks and digital channels have also helped us to promote our services. Even if we cannot work on a project directly, we are open to direct them to the right centers.
Q: How has the pandemic influenced CIDETEQ’s projects?
A: Last year brought unique challenges. At the peak of the pandemic, we decided to continue working on the center’s essential activities. We maintain close communication with our partners for ongoing projects. On-site visits presented a challenge. We addressed this on a case-by-case basis and through close communication but we met all our commitments.
Q: What are CIDETEQ’s priorities for 2021?
A: Regardless of the pandemic, we will continue to work alongside the sector on innovation and competitiveness. We are also looking for new market niches. One of the most common requests we have received is for company training. Companies are taking this extra time to train employees.
We also will maintain our focus on EV batteries. Given prevalent environmental concerns, there are interesting projects in the pipeline, including some focused on automation and remote control through mobile apps. There is a great opportunity to automate certain processes.