BMW RWTH Aachen Technology Day 2021
Research and industry as allies in innovation
RWTH and BMW determined to bring innovation on the road
On 18 June 2021, research and industry met for an interactive exchange on innovation in mobility. With RWTH Aachen University and automotive manufacturer BMW Group, two leaders in their fields discussed existing links, determined shared goals, and identified potential starting points for further cooperation. The BMW RWTH Aachen Technology Day 2021 was organised by Dr. Lisa Kissmer, Manager of Strategic University Cooperations, and moderated by Dr. Mirjam Storim, Head of Innovation Strategy, Strategic Resource Allocation at BMW. In addition to selected online guests, a small delegation from Aachen, consisting of 5 university professors and Bram Wijlands, Managing Director at RWTH Innovation, travelled to Munich to engage in an open dialogue with the BMW Group university strategy board, including members of the development, production, purchasing, finance, IT, human resources and social services departments.
Strategic partnership driven by shared goals and motives
The event was opened by Prof. Ulrich Rüdiger, Rector of RWTH Aachen University and Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development, who welcomed the virtual and on-site guests. In their video messages, both recognised the two actors as allies in innovation. Looking back at the cooperation so far, Prof. Ulrich Rüdiger emphasised the partners’ successful effort to bring many pioneering research projects on track. BMW Group and RWTH Aachen University have been strategic partners since 2017. The Key Account Management is run by RWTH Innovation. Since then, the partners have not only collaborated on future-proof research topics but also launched new recruiting and innovation formats for talent development. Frank Weber underlined the reasons for the successful cooperation:
“Digital Engineering and Industry 4.0 are just two of the various future-proof fields in which RWTH Aachen University is leading the way and in which BMW is investing heavily. We have a shared ambition: shaping the future. We have the same goals: generating and sharing knowledge, developing and realising solutions, successfully industrialising ideas in products.”
After reviewing the successful cooperation history, both Frank Weber and Prof. Ulrich Rüdiger looked forward to future discussions about new joint projects.
Dr. Stefan Floeck, Senior Vice President Body, Exterior, Interior at BMW Group and Executive Mentor for the RWTH cooperation hosted the Technology Day. An RWTH alumnus himself, he explained what makes RWTH one of the most important partners in research: First, an established, highly interdisciplinary and international network; second, a broad base of start-ups in deep tech and mobility; and third, very good relations to mutual strategic partners. This profile makes RWTH Aachen one of BMW Group’s six strategic university partners worldwide for collaborating, exchanging technologies, and transferring innovation.
RWTH research areas as starting points for innovation transfer
In the following part of the Technology Day programme, each of the invited RWTH professors briefly presented their research area to give an outlook on how they can contribute to the different fields in the BMW Group innovation strategy. Prof. Bernhard Rumpe from the Department of Computer Science 3 (Software Engineering), elaborated on the role of Connected (Systems) Engineering in functional, model-based development, intelligent production, and usage. The next field of innovation, Anticipating Systems, was divided into two parts: 1) Quantum Computing by Prof. Hendrik Bluhm from the Chair of Experimental Physics and the II. Institute of Physics, and 2) by Prof. Max Lemme from the Chair of Electronic Devices and AMICA - Advanced Microelectronic Center Aachen. Prof. Hendrik Bluhm's presentation of the status quo, the requirements, applications and opportunities of integrating the use of quantum computing into products and processes in the automotive industry attracted wide interest among the participants, sparking ideas for further activities and cooperation in the field. Prof. Max Lemme, in turn, focused on the research conducted at NeuroSys, one of seven new Clusters4Future. The Aachen-based innovation network is a hub for research on hardware for neuromorphic computing. BMW Group is part of this network as a member of the Advisory Board. A third field of innovation, Smart Production and Supply Chain, was addressed by Prof. Günther Schuh from the Chair of Production Engineering at the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL). In his talk, Prof. Günther Schuh shared his insights into current and future trends in automotive production and customer demands. Lastly, Prof. Lutz Eckstein, Director of the Institute for Automotive Engineering (ika) elaborated on the innovation topic Thrilling Boost & Ease by explaining the factors that determine convincing customer experiences, and by pointing out an advanced methodology to achieve them.
After lunch, the starting points for potential collaborations in each of the research and innovation areas were discussed in more detail in individual break-out sessions. The Technology Day ended with a discussion on industry-oriented university education. Under the 150-year anniversary motto of RWTH Aachen University “Lernen. Forschen. Machen.” (engl.: “Learn. Research. Create.”), Ilka Horstmeier, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Human Resources, Labour Relations Director, invited the RWTH delegation to an exchange with high-profile innovation experts at BMW Group, including Dr. Stefan Floeck, Dr. Nicolai Martin, Senior Vice President for Automated Driving and Driver Assistance, Alexander Buresch, Senior Vice President for Group IT, and Dr. Rudolf Bencker, Senior Vice President for New Technologies and China. Prof. Aloys Krieg, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences and Vice-Rector for Teaching, Prof. Malte Brettel, Chair of Economics for Engineers and Natural Scientists and Vice-Rector for Industry and Business Relations, and Prof. Achim Kampker, Chair of Production Engineering of E-mobility Components, joined virtually from Aachen.
The open dialogue once again underlined the shared ambition of BMW Group and RWTH Aachen, resulting in many interesting starting points for further cooperation – from teaching to events to research projects to start-ups –, and in the mutual commitment to learn, research and create together, to stay ahead as a company and as a university by generating early-stage innovation as competent partners.