In the Silicon Valley for urban mobility
Urbanization | Developing the future in northern Spain: thyssenkrupp Elevator’s Innovation Center in Gijón develops groundbreaking inventions such as the ACCEL. The institution is one of the Group’s most important sources of ideas – partly due to an unconventional approach to work.
A unique transportation system offering high capacities and high speeds – with no waiting times for passengers: Presentation of the ACCEL marked thyssenkrupp’s entry into the mass transit sector and caused quite a stir – far beyond the boundaries of the usual trade audience. That was nearly ten months ago, and since then the prototype powered by linear motor technology from the Transrapid magnetic levitation train has been undergoing testing in Gijón. The industrial city on the north coast of Spain is home to Elevator’s Innovation Center. In cooperation with colleagues from Germany, research is currently being conducted for the rope-free MULTI elevator which is also powered by Transrapid technology and has multiple cabs in each shaft. A fully functional 1:3-scale model was recently taken into operation. Where? In Gijón of course.
Around 40 engineers from a wide variety of disciplines work on transportation solutions for the future: innovative escalators, moving walks, elevators, passenger boarding bridges, and also completely new approaches. The Innovation Center has registered 56 patents in last six years, developing more than 55 projects and winning numerous awards. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the leading names in technology research, recently added thyssenkrupp to its list of the “50 Smartest Companies for 2015” – in particular in recognition of its latest innovations such as ACCEL and MULTI.
Learning from Apple and Google
“The Center has grown into one of the most important sources of innovations in the entire Group as a result of our unusual approach to work,” says Javier Sesma, General Manager of the Innovation Center. “The offices have no walls and are completely open, every workstation is mobile – that encourages communication and idea sharing.” With creativity one of the key maxims, the spirit of Silicon Valley can be felt at the Innovation Center. And another lesson has also been learned from American technology giants such as Apple and Google. New products must be brought to market quickly – but they must still be mature. This is the only way to get ahead of the field. “We can develop and test prototypes virtually on the computer,” says Sesma. “That saves time and money.” The technology is only built “for real” once everything works. Prototypes up to original scale can be installed and operated in the laboratories.
The Innovation Center’s environment also plays a major role. It is located in the so-called “Mile of Knowledge” with direct neighbors including Gijón Polytechnic School of Engineering, the “Universidad Laboral” complex and a technology park hosting numerous other companies. More than 10,000 employees from science, industry and the creative sector are brought together here. They exchange information, learn from each other and develop joint projects – across various disciplines. This ensures that it’s only a matter of time before the next good idea comes along.