JAGUAR LAND ROVER'S NEW INNOVATION INCUBATOR
26 September 2021
At a brand new tech center in downtown Portland, Oregon, Matt Jones, Jaguar Land Rover’s Head of Future Infotainment, is looking to help new start-ups turn their ideas for future in-car infotainment into reality. Here Matt explains the thinking behind Project Innovation Incubator.
Tell us, in a nutshell, what the Innovation Incubator is all about.
We are looking to work with young companies with brilliant ideas for new technologies that link to providing information or entertainment in or around the car, and help them rapidly move their ideas forward. We plan to mentor them, offer them technical support, a space to work in our brand new, state-of-the-art JLR Tech incubator in Portland, Oregon, and even give them capital investment to help fund their projects, with the stated aim that their technologies will hopefully find their way into the next generation of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.
What kind of new technology ideas are you looking for?
Infotainment in cars has changed dramatically in the past few years. It used to be a radio and CD player in the middle of the dash, and now consumers expect everything they can get on their iPhone® or iPad® in their car. A good example of great, innovative technology in infotainment is from the U.S. technology start-up Vonsor. They were our pilot Innovation Incubator program and their system is currently under development with the Jaguar Land Rover engineering team in Portland. Vonsor lets drivers take live footage from an array of cameras inside and outside the vehicle - it could be anything from off-road adventures to family fun - edit together the footage on the vehicle’s touchscreen, and then share it on social media. In just a few minutes you can put together a terrific video you can post on YouTube or Facebook.
What’s in it for the start-ups?
The start-ups will be getting around 600 square feet of dedicated, private, work space rent-free for six-months in our new JLR Tech incubator, as well as seed-funding. More importantly, the start-ups will get a dedicated team of seven Jaguar Land Rover Incubator Staff to work with, and access to over 70 other engineers and world-class technology innovators in Portland. Our engineers and developers can assist with everything - low-level coding, platform engineering, integrating their technology into vehicles, user testing and product creation. That’s really powerful for a small start-up.
How many start-ups are you looking to take on?
We’re looking to take twelve companies into the incubator space per year. We are planning to select around 120 start-ups for us to work with over the next decade. These are small companies with anywhere between two to six members. If we’re approached by companies a little too big to spend time in the incubator space, naturally we’ll consider partnering with them on a more traditional model. It’s extremely flexible.
Can you tell us why you chose Portland for this project?
These days Portland is known as TechTown PDX because it’s become one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the country. It also has a unique location midway between other West Coast tech centers like Seattle and Silicon Valley. For us at Jaguar Land Rover, it also offers mountains for testing off-road, and Portland International Raceway for track work. It’s also a pretty cool place to live, work and play, often being ranked highest in the U.S. for quality of life.
What are the next steps?
We’re just putting the finishing touches to our new Incubator building in the center of Portland. It gives us an extra 25,000 square feet of space in addition to the 15,000 square feet of our original site that is just three blocks away. The next step is to start hiring the extra 40 developers we’ll need. The new building is planned to be up and running in October. Right now the most important thing for us is find start-ups to join the incubator project. Our website - www.jlrtechincubator.com - is up and running and a great place to find out more about the program, and start the application process.