Learning platforms and innovation in car industry: the case of an automotive powertrain subsidiary in Brazil

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Berlin (2010)


Brazil, competence, innovation, powertrain, product development


Innovation is a major concern in most automotive companies, either car makers and suppliers. Specifically in the case of powertrain system suppliers, capacity and ability to innovate may signify a strategy to survive in a world where environmental and market concerns constantly put automotive industry – and the way their products work – into question. In order to verify how a company may enhance its innovative capacity through organizational changes, a case study is being conducted in a Powertrain subsidiary, located in an emergent country. This supplier is part of a major European automotive group, and had split from the car assembler unit in 2001. Since then, it has been struggling for more independence from the headquarters as well as from the car maker unit (its major captive customer), and has being building in a more strong way its capacity to create new products. Conquering new markets is an strategic issue in this sense. The main objective of the research is to investigate how this firm can build a “learning platform”, that is, an organizational structure designed to improve individual and collective competences, related to research, development, engineering and production, so as to promote innovation.
Some variables will be analyzed as indicators of the building of an “innovation and learning platform”, in three dimensions of innovation: i) innovation in processes, ii) flow of information and knowledge, iii) development of new products and technologies. The variables are divided into i) tracking of competences (formal and informal) for innovation: training and formal qualifications, practical experience in work activities; shared perception of the job, ability to work in a team, familiarity with the product and with market needs, ability to share and disseminate creative thinking, and ii) organizational strategies for innovation: knowledge of suppliers’ processes in order to maintain quality partnerships, partnerships with organizations specialized in technology management and information such as universities and research centers; organizational architecture that allows the streaming of knowledge and teamwork; incentive for emerging strategies in product development, partnerships with local community and ability to identify strategic partners.
This paper will present preliminary findings from this case study. The concept of “learning platform” will be presented, and it will be discussed the trajectory of the firm, as well as how it is proceeding with a view to upgrade its local innovative capacity.

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