In a welcome bit of outside-the-box thinking, the intellectual property licensing group of Ford Motor Company and two other Michigan-based organizations are collaborating on a new program intended to encourage and nurture entrepreneurial individuals develop and commercialize their products -- particularly those with direct bearing on the automotive industry. In addition to the assets available through its own unique TechShop operation, Ford's partners in the creation of this unique Motor City Innovation Exchange include the AutoHarvest Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to accelerate innovation in advanced manufacturing techniques and Wayne State University's TechTown, an incubator/facilitator that focuses on providing individuals with guidance as well as connections to resources.

Ford's TechShop is a story in itself. Founded in 2006, this membership-based entity offers budding inventors with dedicated workspace and over $1 million worth of high-quality machines, tools and software to help in the fabrication process as well as providing instructional assistance in turning their concepts into material reality. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., TechShop currently has west coast locations in San Francisco and San Jose, as well as a facility in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Michigan branch in the Detroit suburb of Allan Park.

"There was a time not so long ago in this business when ideas that were 'not invented here' got easily dismissed," says William Coughlin, CEO, Ford Global Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company that manages the company's intellectual property portfolio. "The competitive pressures in the auto industry today are greater than ever, with demands for improving quality, safety, technology and of course fuel efficiency, so we are both encouraging and looking for new ideas wherever we can find them."

"Innovation Exchange is all about helping to spread the word about the innovation happening both inside and outside of TechShop, and giving the creators the foundational resources they need to understand how to sell and commercialize their idea and connect with the right players while respecting their intellectual property," says Coughlin.

As a further boost to the Motor City Innovation Exchange, Ford also has created a new Jump Start program will use its real estate division, Ford Land, to help TechShop members in need of affordable permanent working space secure discounted rental rates in Ford Land buildings in the Allen Park and Dearborn area.


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