The automotive industry, including the transportation industry, is in a period of transition, and remains a key sector for Europe’s prosperity. The sector employs 13.8 million people directly or indirectly. Of the private sector players, the automotive industry also spends the most money on product development. The automotive industry accounts for 7% of EU GDP (Source: European Commission).
The major drivers of rapid and large-scale technological development are climate reasons. The environmental dimension are thus strongly reflected in each of the automotive industry’s key strategic pillars (Source: Eucar strategic vision):
Security and integrated mobility
Transportation will develop into large, intelligent entity, in which improved efficiency and safety are key objectives. ICT and telematics play a crucial role in improving security and the traffic flows. The development path from a single vehicle to an integrated transportation system is fascinating and challenging and a lot of the latest technology is required. In addition to technology also legislation need to be developed, to enable autonomous transportation, for example.
Environmentally friendly propulsion
Most of the cars in the future are powered by electricity or advanced, environmentally friendly fuels. Nowadays, many full-electric vehicles are expensive compared to traditional motor vehicles, but the price gap will narrow or disappear completely, due to economies of scale, more efficient technologies in production and propulsion, and better use of raw materials. This will speed up the renewal of the existing fossil intensive fleet, and eventually replace it completely full electric or bio-fueled vehicles. From a technological point of view, this change also requires large-scale development co-operation in between car manufacturers, their subcontractors and organizations developing biofuels, just to mention a few.
People and goods must keep moving in the future as well. From a citizens’ point of view, the quality of life can be improved without limiting mobility even in today’s hazy and hectic metropolitan areas. With new and innovative vehicles, cities can be made cleaner, quieter and safer for everyone. This, in turn, also requires a change in the culture of the people. The appropriate actions required may not be the same everywhere. Regional experiments based on the regions’ characteristics are needed, before scaling of best practices gained through experience.
Trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles will also to be integrated into the larger transport infrastructure. How to ensure environmentally sound or carbon-neutral logistics is one of the most important questions to be answered. In addition, safety and efficiency are crucially important in this era of increased automation, and it is likely automation takes it first larger scale leaps in commercial vehicles.
Enabling technologies and processes
Vehicles designed and produced in Europe must continue to be reasonably priced and competitive, even when sustainable production methods are increasingly applied. Lifecycle thinking is important to ensure sustainability throughout the lifetime of a vehicle and even beyond. Recyclable and reusable materials play an important role in this.
Oulu Automotive Ecosystem
To achieve all of the goals listed above, a great deal of high-level expertise is needed – in car factories, subcontractors, and in one way or another in operations related to transport infrastructure needs. The automotive industry already has long value chains from design to manufacturing and sales, and they will not decline in the future. As a result, the expertise needed in different phases of the value chain can be utilized from where most skilled specialists are, even if that would not be next door to the production plant.
On a Finnish scale, Oulu has grown into a significant automotive cluster, in which circa 40 companies are already involved. Many of the companies represent software or other high-tech branch, such as IoT, and are already working in R&D and other processes in automotive industry as subcontractors. (Source: BusinessOulu). Recently, the actors of this automotive cluster have found each other better, as Oulu Innovation Alliance has been facilitating the birth of the cluster. It has been a pleasure to see how business representatives are happy to meet and share their experiences openly for creating even more lucrative and specialized Oulu Region. BusinessOulu and corporate actions have created important collaborative channels for the ecosystems of Hannover, Stuttgart and Gothenburg.
Automotive and HPC (High Performance Computing)
In reflection of the automotive industry’s strategic pillars presented earlier, it is clear that the industry needs to take huge leaps in technological and system development to meet the goals set. Product development, especially heavy simulations, artificial intelligence development and 3D modeling, for example, require a lot of raw computing power. Here too, northern Finland is ready to serve the automotive industry in a sustainable manner.
At Kajaani, a truly European heavy concentration in heavy computing is emerging. The state-owned IT Center for Science, CSC, is a leader in the area of heavy computing. CSC already operates the most powerful supercomputer in the Nordic countries and soon one of the world’s most powerful computing clusters, the LUMI EuroHPC supercomputer. Alongside CSC, Herman IT operates commercial Datacenters in the same location.
The data centers currently operating in the former UPM paper mill area enjoy the world’s most stable power grid. Electricity in the business park is produced with renewable energy sources. The heat generated by the data center processes is recovered and utilized to heat the office space. In the future, this so-called waste heat can also be transferred directly to the district heating network.
The automotive industry in Central Europe has already found data center partners in Sweden and Norway. Finland is just as well suited to the needs of high-performance computing in the automotive industry. The viable ecosystems make easier for investors to make decisions of datacenter site selection.