Brake Giant Brembo Selects Silicon Valley For Its U.S. ‘Inspiration Lab’

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Brembo CEO Daniele Schillaci

BREMBO

Giant Italian brake maker Brembo SpA not long ago decided to beef up its research-and development presence in major markets around the world, including the crucial United States market. And now Brembo CEO Daniele Schillaci has announced the company’s selection of Silicon Valley for what it’s calling the Brembo Inspiration Lab.

The Silicon Valley outpost will be Brembo’s first under Schillaci’s strategy to make the manufacturer of red brake calipers and other brake components a “trusted solution provider” and a more adept digital player, both objectives of a new approach that he announced in September.

The new Brembo lab will focus on strengthening the company’s expertise in software development, data science and artificial intelligence. It’s expected to open in the last quarter of this year, aiming to attract talent from different industries as Brembo “favor[s] the virtuous mix of several competencies to benefit the development of new braking solutions,” the company said in a statement.

“We are entering and investing in this world-renowned location for high technology and innovation with the clear and ambitious goal of addressing the unprecednted challenges impacting the automotive sector,” Schillaci said in the statement.

While Silicon Valley makes utter sense for an R&D outpost for Brembo just as it has for many other automotive OEMs and major suppliers, Schillaci told me last fall that the company was open to a number of possible locations for its new type of R&D center. The company’s existing R&D headquarters is in Plymouth, Michigan, in suburban Detroit, and its main U.S. manufacturing hub is in rural Homer, Michigan.

“If you talk about software and AI, the first place you think about is Silicon Valley,” he said last fall. “But if you talk about technology engineering, of course Michigan and the Detroit area are where you want to be.” Besides digitization per se, another aspect of Brembo’s new strategy suggested that the company wants be physically closer to OEM headquarters which, in North America, are clustered in the heartland.

“The megatrends in the automotive business – such as electric and autonomous vehicles – are putting a lot of pressure on OEMs in terms of managing resources,” Schillaci said. “Those are changes we need to deal with. We can’t ignore them. Think about this: For many OEMs, in the powertrain area they used to have to deal with two main technologies: petrol and diesel. Now it’s more complicated, with electric cars and [hydrogen] fuel cells. That tells you that they need to make a a very high prority to allocate resources. At Brembo, we thought that now is the right time to do more to help our partners.”

Brembo also plans to open new innovation centers in China, India and Europe, said Alessandro Ciotti, director of advanced R&D for Brembo, last fall. “They will be located in these different places to make us faster in creation and implementation of new technologies,” he said. “This also will give us an opportunity to have kind of a different mind of people inside the organization, a diversity in mind and approach.”

In elaborating, Schillaci told me that the creation of these new R&D centers “is a natural consequence of our new vision and mission. Already today, we have R&D departments in our entities, such as in North America. But how can we be close to where the technology is but also at the same time leverage diversity by employing people locally who challenge Brembo on new technologies, ideas and solutions?”

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