Volkswagen Group of America and the University of Tennessee announced a collaboration late last week on the car company’s first innovation hub in North America at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm.
The collaboration, which will include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, involves research opportunities for doctoral students and space in the Innovation North building at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm at Knoxville. Initial work will focus on developing lighter vehicle components made from composite materials, the electrification of vehicles and other automotive innovation.
“Working with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a great opportunity to continue growing Volkswagen’s engineering footprint in the North American region,” said Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, executive vice president and chief engineering officer of Volkswagen North American Region. “This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles sold in North America.”
Volkswagen and UT have collaborated since Volkswagen opened its Chattanooga assembly plant in 2011, where the manufacturer assembles the Volkswagen Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs. This past fall, Volkswagen of America broke ground on a new electric vehicle production facility, which includes a 564,000-square-foot body shop addition and up to 1,000 new jobs. The Chattanooga plant currently employs 3,800 workers.
Some examples of the collaboration between UT Chattanooga and Volkswagen include the development of an MBA program that lets Volkswagen employees earn the degree by taking classes at the plant or on campus and Volkswagen’s membership in the Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation, a cooperative agreement that includes UT Knoxville and the Department of Energy. As part of the membership in the Institute, Volkswagen engineers and UT researchers created a novel composite liftgate for the Volkswagen Atlas that reduces weight by 35 percent, as well as reducing investment cost.
“Our collaboration with the University of Tennessee is not just an opportunity to explore new fields of research, it’s also an opportunity to expand and grow what the Volkswagen Group has already achieved in the region,” said Nikolai Reimer, senior vice president of Volkswagen Group of America Innovation and Engineering Center California. “The Volkswagen Group has made significant strides in developing sustainable technologies and the Innovation Hub Knoxville can help continue this effort through research in advanced material design.”
The innovation hub in Knoxville will join Volkswagen’s larger global innovation ecosystem, which includes centers in Belmont, California; Wolfsburg, Germany and Beijing, China, along with innovation hubs in Barcelona, Spain; Tel Aviv, Israel and Tokyo, Japan.
Volkswagen of America Inc. is an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, with headquarters in Herndon, Virginia.