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Xcelerating innovation, HONDA-STYLE

  • Magazine Article
  • 20AUTP05_03
Published May 01, 2020 by SAE International in United States
  • English

Honda's pragmatic approach to partnering with tech startups is delivering promising results.

For the past five years, Honda Innovations, part of the automaker's R&D enterprise, has been quietly running a collaborative, open-innovation program at six locations around the world. Known as the Honda Xcelerator, its overall mission is not unlike those of other mobility OEMs looking to engage with tech startups. This equates to funding for rapid prototyping, providing access to a collaborative workspace, and letting them work with mentors within Honda to develop products for at least one of eight focus areas. These areas include AI and robotics, connected vehicles, human-machine interface (HMI), industrial innovation, personal or shared mobility, vehicle data business, in-vehicle apps and energy innovation.

But Honda's approach, at its Xcelerator offices in Israel, Japan, Detroit, China and Mountain View, California, is unique. The 72-year-old mobility company is careful about the startups with which it chooses to work. “Honda is very pragmatic,” said Dennis Clark, managing director of strategic venture partnerships at Honda Innovations. “We don't have a speculative venture fund. All the work that we do with the startups, they're pretty much fully vetted. We have a lot of conversations and initial testing” in the early getting-to-know-you phase of the relationship.