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Social Innovation

Driving automotive innovation with co-creation

As the race to produce the first autonomous car heats up, collaboration between car manufacturers and tech firms is more important than ever.

The world around us is changing rapidly, propelled by technological disruption.

With such change comes greater competition, more complex projects and instant customer feedback thanks to social media.

To accommodate this, businesses are adapting their once traditional approach of secretly developing solutions behind the doors of R&D labs and are instead adopting a much more open and dynamic approach to innovation.

Enter co-creation! Co-creation – when organisations bring stakeholders into the innovation process to deliver new products and services – is key to ensuring that products remain relevant in an ever-changing market. In fact, a recent report from Longitude and Hitachi found that those working in the automotive sector are the most likely (83%) to say that co-creation has transformed their approach to innovation. However, the report also found that one of the automotive sector’s biggest fears is that the public will start viewing cars as a service rather than as a desirable product. This could explain why the sector is moving forward with co-creation, to ensure that they are creating products which are attractive as a purchase to consumers.

Bringing consumers in early

The most significant benefit of adopting co-creation in the automotive industry is how car makers are collaborating with consumers to source and test designs. In fact, the report found that half of automotive organisations said they have worked with consumers on a collaborative creation project on a regular basis. By asking for their opinion, car makers are bringing their consumers into the design fold, giving them a real and vested interest in the final product and making sure that their products remain as attractive and appealing as possible.

Away from dealerships

The future of the automotive industry is beset with challenges and opportunities. With climate change at the forefront of the agenda and increasing demands for cleaner transport, car manufacturers are adapting their designs to reflect these global trends. Faced increasingly with emission targets and declarations from countries within the EU, for example, that only zero emission cars will be sold from 2050, car manufacturers must move with the tide or be abruptly left behind.

The technological revolution spurred on by the Internet of Things era is capable of turning these challenges into opportunities. At the same time, increasing policy focus on the transformation of our urban environments into smart cities provides the perfect environment for new car technologies – electric and driverless – to flourish and become part of a connected infrastructure. However, manufacturers must be willing to engage in conversations with other organisations, consumers and governments in order to secure their place in the transition towards smart transportation.

The future of the car

As industries increasingly collaborate, the boundaries between them begin to blur. Whereas car manufacturers used to install their own in-car entertainment systems, these were gradually displaced by those of tech companies which were popular among consumers. However, the dawn of driverless cars on the near horizon has accelerated the need to collaborate to another level.

Working towards producing the first fully autonomous car is very much a race, and competition amongst car manufacturers is fierce. In order to stay ahead in this race, car makers and tech firms around the world are working together to develop driverless car technology. The collaboration between Google and Fiat Chrysler is just one of the partnerships announced in 2016 between car makers and tech firms as they seek to integrate and share their specialised expertise.

Why co-creation is the answer

Co-creation is not a new concept but it is one which is being enhanced and driven by the way the world is changing. According to Mary Barra, Chief Executive of General Motors, the car sector will “change more in the next five to ten years than it has in the last fifty.” Whilst the pace of technological disruption is forcing industries to deliver innovation at a faster rate, co-creation is enabling them to pool existing talent and resources across sectors and develop products to keep them at the front of the race.