Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn today announced a collaboration with New Lab, a co-working platform where tenants work on “frontier technology,” to address complex transportation problems related to connectivity, autonomy, and electrification at the automaker’s emerging mobility campus in Detroit’s Corktown district.
In 2018, Ford acquired Michigan Central, a former train depot at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street spanning 15 stories that is scheduled to reopen in late 2022 and offer stores, restaurants, and cultural experiences on the first floor, 11 floors of workspace for Ford workers and suppliers, and three floors of hospitality space at the top of the structure.
Ford began the three-phase restoration project last year and plans to make the station the centerpiece of a new innovation hub in Corktown that will bring together new startups, established companies, urbanists, investors, innovators, and academic institutions to reimagine the future of transportation and make smarter, sustainable communities. The area will offer 5G connectivity.
Michigan Central joins the neighboring Roosevelt Warehouse (Book Depository Building), which is scheduled to reopen next year and include work space for Ford workers and its partners, a Maker Space and Showcase, along with a small theater and other work areas in the lower level.
Nearby, Ford has renovated The Factory at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Rosa Parks Blvd., where 250 workers are set in two historic brick and wood floor structures. A small museum where train station artifacts are displayed is located on the first floor. The automaker also plans to add a mobility test area behind the iconic train depot.
New Lab, founded in 2016, rents startup studio space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. There space is occupied by more than 800 engineers, entrepreneurs, and inventors that apply “transformative technologies to things that matter.” In Corktown, Ford and New Lab plan “to foster an innovation ecosystem committed to helping shape the future of mobility in a way that benefits everyone.”
As part of the effort, Michigan Central and New Lab will launch two new studios focused on mobility that will ultimately live within the district. A corporate studio sponsored by Ford will kick off this summer to address macro mobility issues, and as part of Ford’s commitment to the local community, a second civic studio will follow focusing on more immediate mobility issues in the neighborhoods around Michigan Central Station.
“The goal of the Michigan Central district is to spur development of new transportation solutions and our collaboration with New Lab will bring even more talent to the region to join Ford in creating the future of mobility,” says Julie Roscini who leads the development’s external engagement strategy for Ford. “The mobility studios will help us lay the foundation for the innovation ecosystem of partners and collaborators we want to create in Corktown.”
New Lab’s studio model brings entrepreneurs, engineers, and inventors together with leaders and experts across cities, regions, and industries to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.
In establishing the mobility innovation studios for Michigan Central, New Lab said it will work together with the existing community of accelerators and incubators in Detroit and Michigan, attracting talent and capital from outside the region and supporting homegrown companies and entrepreneurs.
In addition, New Lab said it will draw on talent from its existing community of 155 startups, especially those companies helping “make cities more equitable, livable, and resilient.” Its member companies, or tenants, include Carmera, a road intelligence platform; Tarform, a new type of electric motorcycle; Optimus Ride, the first AV shuttle in New York; and Roadpower Systems, a platform to generate grid-grade electricity using energy recovered from vehicles in motion.
“Detroit is the birthplace for modern manufacturing, and Ford is the beating heart of the country’s automotive industry. This is why Michigan Central is the perfect place for New Lab’s model of collaborative, diverse, and dynamic innovation,” says Shaun Stewart, CEO of New Lab who spent over two years helping to build the self-driving car business at Waymo, a division of Google X.
“Our studio model will support the overall development of Michigan’s startup ecosystem, making the pie bigger for everyone and helping local startups to stay, grow, and thrive here.”
As part of Detroit Startup Week, Ford’s Roscini and New Lab’s Stewart will hold a virtual, live-streamed fireside chat, tomorrow, June 26, at 2 p.m. The discussion will cover the mobility innovation studios and how they will involve the Detroit and Michigan startup and tech community. To join, please click here.