November 30, 2009


On Saturday, I was one of 200 selected applicants to attend the first TEDxGöteborg event, which is one of several locally organized TED talk events that the famous TED organization endorses (but does not organize). The event was a well-organized gathering of people from different backgrounds watching a number of live talks by inspiring thought leaders combined with a number of selected talks streamed from the TED website.

This was a full day event, which included the following list of speakers and performances;

  • Ramnath Narayanswami
  • Kajsa Sperling
  • Julian Treasure
  • Jesper Larsson
  • Olof Kolte

-- Group discussion --

  • Remmy Shawa
  • Aimee Mullins
  • Magnus Larsson
  • Karolina Nätterlund

-- Visualization of audio: performance by Sönderbyggd --

-- Group discussion --

  • Caren Steel
  • Jacob Lagerqrantz

-- Musical performance: Göteborgs Indiekör

It was an interesting and varied discussion covering subjects such as biomimicry for solving technological challenges, new uses for bacteria, gender-based violence in Africa, creative destruction of industries through disruptive innovation, how to prevent desertification, how the perception has changed on disability, sustainability in transportation and food distribution. I think that the organizers had done an excellent job in creating an innovative atmosphere and the schedule was set with a number of coffee breaks for group discussion and debriefing of the covered topics.

There were several highlights but I want to mention two that were particularly interesting. Jesper Larsson talked about how he had redefined the concept of accommodation when being away from home. He has, together with sponsors and colleagues, started something that he refers to as a creator's-inn. Basically this is a way of providing free accommodation for artists when they perform their creative work away from their home city. Jesper and his crew have, among a number of examples he presented, built hotel rooms that should feel like "home". In these rooms there are clothes in the drawers for those who wishes to use them, music records to listen to, a wallpaper with a city map where visitors can recommend good restaurants to each other using post-its and even an online directory with suggested people to hang out with. These things are all possible through the collaborative effort of a number of altruistic soles that likes helping others. The beauty of this is that creates a "win-win-win-win situation" since the idea benefits creators (staying for free), local creative organizers (can offer guests accommodation), culture of the city (makes the city attractive to go to for creators), creative exchanges (more creators may be able to travel and perform at other places) and sponsors (e.g. IKEA that seemed to have contributed with some of the furniture).

Another highlight of the day was a talk given by Karolina Nätterlund who talked about how knowledge from biology may be used to solve everyday technological problems by imitating nature. Karolina who is a former student from the engineering design program at Chalmers has also started the company Equidesign, where she focuses on bringing in biologists to brainstorming sessions about solving commercial problems. There must be countless interesting features in nature (just think about spider webs or different forms of venoms) that could be used as an interdisciplinary problem solving (Biomimicry) approach to everyday problems.

Tobias Thornblad

(Contact via Twitter)

November 28, 2009

Ford and Geely closer to agree on Volvo IPR

The talks between the Chinese car manufacturer Geely and Ford seems to have gotten a step closer to actually closing the deal on Volvo Cars. According to a press release on November 27 the key issue about how and in what form the technology is to be part of the transfer has been solved.

For acquired Volvo Cars from the Swedish automotive company Volvo some 10 years ago. Volvo AB still manufactures trucks and heavy vehicles under the same brand name.

Ford has for some time had negotiations with the Chinese car manufacturer Geely about selling Volvo, a deal estimated to be worth some USD 2 billion. Even though the brand itself probably adds up to a great deal of that price the actual technology to build up the cars have been one of the key issues in the negotiations. For one, Volvo has been tightly integrated in to Ford and as such most likely shared technology, and IP, across both companies. This has been an issue in the negotiations, since Chinese companies are not as highly regarded when it comes to respecting IP. The current integration in to Ford has therefore created some issues, now when it is assumed Volvo will operate independently as an own entity.

The press release yesterday stated that a solution might be close at hand.

"Volvo will retain ownership over key technologies and IP that it has developed and will retain access to all Ford IP that Volvo plans to use to implement its business plan," and that by owning Volvo Geely would get "access to a significant suite of IP, including Volvo's safety and environmental IP."According to Reuters.

I think this is interesting for two reasons.

1) The automotive industry is to a large extent driven by innovations and the IP portfolios and teams of engineers are key assets that Chinese companies have had a hard time keeping up with. By acquiring Volvo Geely will get access to many interesting technologies, possibly both to be deployed in vehicles with the Volvo brand but also in other brands.

2) That the IP owned bu Volvo will come with the purchase might not come as a total surprise and will possibly be quite easy to handle in the long run. The issue which to me is a bit less clear is that Volvo will get access to IP for the planned implementation of the business plan. What is included, for how long and to what extent. They will possibly/hopefully define it in a better way in the final contract, though one can not be too sure.

I recollect the now settled dispute between eBay and Joltid around the fundamental technology for Skype. It turned out that it was not included in the purchase of the company. I might not see as fundamental technology retention in this case, but there might be some core IP kept in Ford's control to surface in a couple of years time when the cars not planned in the business plan are a reality. Perhaps impeding Volvo and it's owner in efforts challenging established US companies (read Ford).

Johan Örneblad
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