Jaguar Land Rover is expanding its Northwest Portland research center, adding space where it can keep working with graduates of its in-house startup incubator.
The company said Wednesday it has broken ground on a 20,000-square-foot expansion to its site in the Pearl District, and it will add 30 engineers to the site when it opens later this year. The company currently has 80 employees in Portland.
Startups that come through JLR's incubator spend six months refining ideas with the aid of the company's engineers.
The new facility will provide space to work with incubator alumni who have developed technology that could be put to use in the company's cars. It also represents an expansion beyond the original focus on in-car electronics.
"Vehicles are inherently complex," said Rupert Poole, who took over management of the Portland sites this week. "There's a huge amount of opportunity for other areas beyond entertainment from the activities the companies have been working on."
Poole, a 14-year veteran at JLR, said his role will be to connect incubator startups with engineers from other parts of the company in an effort to increase the pace of innovation.
"The pace of automotive development is pickup up speed every year, and it's increasingly hard to make those connections," he said.
JLR first landed in the Pearl District in 2014, when it opened a research facility that focused on infotainment software. It was the company's only product-development site outside the United Kingdom.
The next year, it opened a 25,000-square-foot incubator. The effort received a tax break worth $382,000 from the Portland Development Commission and $50,000 from Drive Oregon, a state-supported group that promotes electric vehicle technology.
It's not yet clear which companies will continue working with JLR, some of which seem to have little to do with cars.
Current and past incubator projects have included a parking-focused machine learning system, a device that analyzes steering wheel vibration, a wearable sensor for babies and a maker of aerial drones.
JLR said it plans to work with 120 startups over the next 10 years.
Source : oregonlive.com