Ford, NextEnergy Announce Automotive Lighting Challenge to Accelerate Development of LED Technology

Ford Motor Company and NextEnergy, one of the nation’s leading accelerators of advanced energy technologies, have teamed up on a technology innovation challenge for industry suppliers to help advance state-of-the-art automotive lighting.

The initiative was announced today at a lighting exposition held at Ford’s Product Development Center, where 30 suppliers and would-be suppliers convened to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapidly changing world of lighting technology.

Some of the lighting innovation challenges Ford and NextEnergy will ask participants to address include:

  • Featherweight challenge: Develop lighting products that create the greatest amount of light (in lumens) with the lowest weight

  • Design for manufacturing challenge: Conceive ways to make existing advanced lighting technology cost-effective and suitable for high-volume production

  • Daylighting LEDs: Create interior ceiling LED (light-emitting diode) lights that emulate daylight

  • Structural lighting: Integrate LEDs and OLEDs (organic light-emitting diode) into interior and exterior structural components, such as seats and door panels

  • Lifecycle challenge: Foster the design of recyclable lighting technology, including biodegradable lighting

The challenge will launch Nov. 19 at the Michigan Advanced Lighting Conference in Lansing. The program is supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Pure Michigan Business Connect initiative to help identify qualified Michigan suppliers.

Ford and Detroit-based NextEnergy will outline a scoring matrix to determine winners. Late next year, competing teams will present their ideas to a panel of Ford and NextEnergy experts, with one or more prizes awarded.

The prizes, provided by the state of Michigan through Michigan Economic Development Corporation and NextEnergy, will include up to $40,000.

“Ford is very interested in maintaining leadership with the use of innovative lighting for the benefit of our customers,” said Dean Stevenson, chief engineer, Ford Global Design Engineering.

Wayne Bahr, chief engineer, Ford Global Body Exterior Systems, said the challenge “should help us innovate faster and increase the capability of our lighting supply base.”

Ford is particularly interested in maintaining its leadership in lighting innovation. The 2015 Ford F-150 has LED headlights, side view mirror lights and cargo bed lights. The 2015 Ford Mustang used a full complement of LED lighting, including brake lights, turn signals and taillights.

“NextEnergy’s collaboration with Ford will encourage open innovation,” said Jean Redfield, president and CEO, NextEnergy. “While this technology challenge will solicit global solutions, we expect Michigan’s advanced lighting industry to be among the solution providers, driving significant economic activity in the state.”

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