Innovating the Automobile Industry

Reverse innovation is the theme of a new course being offered by the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor.
Innovating the Automobile Industry

It will introduce students to the process of reverse innovation— a backward flow of ideation from entrepreneurs in developing countries to large companies in the U.S. Students will study scalable, energy-efficient mobility systems that have been deployed as alternatives to automobile ownership.

The course is partially funded by the university’s Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation (SMART) Program with the support of the Alcoa Foundation and the Ford Motor Company.

To gather data for the course, the institute and SMART sent students around the world to document how transportation issues are being addressed outside the U.S. Their findings and analysis will form the basis for the fall-term course project.

The reverse innovation course was designed as a response to the growing movement away from traditional transportation methods. For instance, companies like Ford are exploring how innovations that occur in developing countries, which have no legacy infrastructure such as interstate highways, can spur ideas for products in the U.S.

“The movement away from car ownership and toward more sustainable, multimodal, IT-enabled systems is already happening globally, and parts of the U.S. are trying to catch up to the trend,” says Sue Zielinski, managing director of SMART.