Ford Drives Innovation, Intellectual Property Development through TechShop Membership Incentive for Smart Ideas

  • TechShop Detroit will give Ford employees, plus all Metro Detroiters, access to classes, coaching and state-of-the-art tools to turn ideas into reality
  • Ford’s Employee Patent Incentive Award program now provides free TechShop memberships to Ford employees submitting inventions
  • Since the program was initiated at the beginning of the year, invention submissions are up more than 30 percent year-to-date versus 2011

ford design

DEARBORN, Mich., May 4, 2012 – Henry Ford would have felt right at home in Michigan’s latest do-it-yourself workshop, the newly opened TechShop Detroit. After all, Mr. Ford underscores what a “maker” represents, having built his first motorized vehicle in his backyard shed.

What is a maker?

It’s an individual within a growing movement of people interested in turning their ideas into reality – whether these are one-off art objects or potentially marketable products – someone who might not have the tools or know-how to get it done.

TechShop is located in Fairlane Business Park, a Ford Land-owned property. Ford Land helped bring TechShop to Metro Detroit with assistance from Bill Coughlin, CEO of Ford Global Technologies. Leading the domestic auto industry’s only intellectual property team with a licensing arm, Coughlin shares this vision to help drive innovation among Ford engineers.

Ford Innovation

“Innovation and invention are at the core of Ford Motor Company,” he says. “When I heard about TechShop and how they are inspiring and helping a new generation of inventors, I had to find a way to lure them to Detroit. Not only is it a great opportunity for the community, but it will be a strategic tool to spur creativity and new ideas within the Ford engineering community to help us continue to build our intellectual property portfolio.”

Ford Global Technologies is enhancing the Employee Patent Incentive Award program so that inventors now get a free three-month membership to TechShop Detroit for submitting an invention worthy of patent consideration. Since launch in 1988, this program has provided financial rewards to Ford employees who submit approved inventions.

Bass Detroit

Coughlin estimates about 2,000 incentive memberships will be provided to Ford employees this year. Since the program was initiated at the beginning of the year, invention submissions are up more than 30 percent versus last year.

Ford has a portfolio of more than 17,000 issued and pending patents around the world, and – as a technology company – needs to be at the very forefront of automotive innovation. With TechShop in close proximity, Ford’s employees in Dearborn will be able to easily and quickly build prototypes for almost any inventive solution they can conceive.

“By collaborating with TechShop Inc. to bring this new facility to southeast Michigan, we hope both to inspire and enable some of the great minds that live in this region to create, experiment and invent,” said Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader, Ford Research and Innovation. “At TechShop, the many creative people including talented engineers, designers and scientists who work in the auto industry can exercise their imaginations and innovate well beyond their usual job description.”

Dozens of Ford employees have already received TechShop awards for a variety of ideas that may be incorporated into future Ford vehicles, or licensed to other companies.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Ford – a company that truly embraces the open innovation model – to drive innovation in the Greater Metro Detroit area,” said Jim Newton, TechShop founder. “TechShop provides a great resource to Ford employees and the many other local entrepreneurs looking to incubate new technologies, as part of Detroit’s growing innovation community.”

From laser cutters to computer-aided-design workstations to 3D printers, every TechShop is outfitted with tools that Henry Ford couldn’t even imagine when he built his first cars more than a century ago. While much of this equipment is still well beyond the means of most tinkerers, memberships that start at just $99 a month enable everyone to be creative. All Ford employees and retirees will qualify for a 50 percent discount on TechShop memberships.

TechShop was launched in 2006 in Menlo Park, Calif., near the heart of Silicon Valley where much of the technology that makes modern life possible was born. While Ford is in the midst of opening its own Silicon Valley Lab, it’s fitting the newest workshop opens in America’s industrial heartland, adjacent to Ford’s product development campus.

Along with access to tools, members can take beginner to advanced-level classes with TechShop Dream Consultants on how to use the tools, and bounce ideas off other members. The Allen Park facility includes 17,000 square feet of shop space, classrooms, a creative brainstorming lounge and a retail store offering convenience materials and consumables.

Every TechShop membership includes:

  • Use of all tools and equipment (safety and basic usage class required for some)
  • Spacious workshop with large worktables with 115-volt outlets and compressed air
  • Use of computer workstations with software including Autodesk Inventor suite
  • Wi-Fi® with high-speed Internet access
  • Free member-only meet-ups and other special events
  • Fresh-brewed coffee and hot popcorn

Members can also rent storage space for their projects as well as a limited number of private workshop spaces.

“If Henry Ford were starting today, he would almost certainly be a member of TechShop Detroit,” Prasad said.

Ford and TechShop – the membership-based workshop and fabrication studio – will host a Grand Opening celebration that spans the entire weekend of Saturday, May 5 through Sunday, May 6, 2012, both days from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the new location in Allen Park at 800 Republic Drive. TechShop Detroit is the result of collaboration between TechShop Inc., Ford Motor Company, Ford Global Technologies and Ford Land.