With hybrid vehicles now commonplace, autonomous and connected vehicles at the doorstep, digital systems all-pervasive, and innovation advancing at breakneck speed, cars are becoming so complex that an automaker needs an outward-looking approach, capable of seeking out talent from varied sources, and of taking up new working practices and new analytical methods.

After a very long period of developments revolving around the classic internal-combustion engine, technological diversity in the motor car is finally booming, with the emergence of zero-emission, hybrid, connected and autonomous vehicles. One thing this means is that a carmaker can no longer reasonably expect to hold the full breadth of skills and capabilities needed for dreaming up and developing the cars of the future, especially when we consider the highly specialized nature of the skills involved, and the rapidly shifting development focuses.

There is a growing need for automakers to adopt an outward-looking approach, for hooking up with the talents they need. Renault practices this approach through creative labs, innovation communities, research institutes, cooperative projects, and co-innovation supplier arrangements, the aim being to develop strong interdisciplinary ties with a wide-reaching cast of startups at the forefront of innovation.

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Renault’s Silicon Valley office

In 2011, Groupe Renault set up an office in California’s Silicon Valley, the home of web giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. This business environment, with the world’s highest concentration of startups, appeared the most conducive for constructive emulation and creativity.

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Just minutes away from the laboratories of the world’s leading new-tech players, the Renault Innovation Silicon Valley center connects us closely with this, the most effervescent of business ecosystems, and puts us within arm’s reach of the innovations likely to influence the cars we’ll be driving tomorrow.

Closer ties with startups

One important focus of Renault’s outward-looking approach to innovation is the startup community, a breeding ground for pioneering developments, especially in software and services. That was one of the reasons behind Renault’s decision to set up an office in Silicon Valley, which accommodates one of the world’s densest concentrations of startups. Another was the prospect of forging links with leading universities such as Stanford and Berkeley. In June 2016 a similar center was opened in Tel Aviv, which ranks among the world’s top five startup environments.

In France, Renault has set up an Open Innovation Unit under its Business Development Department, again with the mission of identifying the startups working on developments relevant to tomorrow’s automotive industry, and of joining up with the most promising among them.