Success Story

The Volvo Group North America’s model for Academic Preferred Partnership highlights how universities and corporations can work together to solve real-world challenges and improve the lives of people around the globe.

Jeff Fortin
Associate Vice President for Research and Director of the Office of Industrial Partnerships at Penn State

Penn State’s New agreement with Volvo Group North America continues Academic-Preferred Partnership in U.S.

Back in 2009, Penn State University began an experiment with Volvo Group North America that now, a decade later, is considered a national model for the development and sustainability of a holistic approach to corporate engagement.

Today, the Volvo Group and Penn State are building on that world-class model by extending their relationship with the execution of a new, three-year agreement to expand research and innovative solutions for logistics, supply chain, and transportation – further cementing Penn State as the Volvo Group’s only Academic Preferred Partner (APP) for Research in the United States.

What began as a partnership focused on efficient-energy solutions for sustainable transport and automation for intelligent vehicles, including a Battery-Use and-Aging Research Project, now will include innovation for many emerging technologies, such as connected vehicles and artificial intelligence.

“The Volvo Group is an industry leader in technology innovation – so as logistics, supply chain and transportation technologies and demands rapidly transform, it’s important for us to understand the unique innovations and implications of that change so we continue to advance opportunities for our customers,” said Chris Smith, vice president quality and customer satisfaction, Volvo Group North America and a 1987 mechanical engineering graduate from the Penn State College of Engineering.

Highlights of the Penn State – Volvo relationship include:

  • Over the past seven years, the APP-funded research has allowed for projects to be completed of interest to Volvo, including the sponsorship of new research teams and faculty fellowships for energy, which is spearheaded by Jacqueline O’Connor, professor, mechanical engineering and for automation technologies led by Sean Brennan, professor, mechanical engineering – both from Penn State’s College of Engineering;
  • The success of the Battery-Use-and-Aging Research Project resulted in two additional projects and one patent developed by Chris Rahn, professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. Rahn serves as co-director of Penn State’s Battery and Energy Storage Technology Center, one of the most-comprehensive battery labs in the world;
  • Volvo Group corporate funds also assisted in seeding and driving development of the Innovation Gateway – provided through the Invent Penn State Office of Industrial Partnerships – which is designed to connect Penn State researchers to the technical challenges and needs of industry;
  • Volvo Group maintains relationships with Formula SAE, ARPA-E NextCar, Engineering Ambassadors and the College of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory – a hands-on facility for engineering students to use in conjunction with capstone design;
  • Since its inception, the Volvo Group has hired approximately 100 Penn State students as full- time employees and an additional 150 students for co-op and intern positions.

The new APP agreement also expands opportunities for talent and learning among Penn State students and continuous learning for employees.

“The Penn State-Volvo relationship is incredibly important, because it represents a unique partnership that has not only endured, but continues to thrive,” said Jeff Fortin, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Industrial Partnerships at Penn State. “The Volvo Group North America’s model for Academic Preferred Partnership highlights how universities and corporations can work together to solve real-world challenges and improve the lives of people around the globe.”

For more information about holistic corporate engagement at Penn State, please contact the Corporate Engagement Center.

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