The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide €150 million to Austrian ZKW Group GmbH. ZKW is a leading automotive supplier that develops and manufactures innovative premium lighting systems and electronic modules. In recent years, ZKW significantly shaped the industry through a series of innovations such as the first laser headlights in series production. The fresh funds from the EU bank will be used for ZKW´s investments in Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) in the field of innovative automotive lighting systems carried out in Austria and Slovakia. In addition, ZKW aims to invest in state-of-the-art machinery and equipment for its manufacturing site located in Slovakia.
Project Solaris is being funded by the FFG grant agency and the Ministry of Technology, as part of the program “Production of the Future.” ZKW is responsible for project management. The ZKW team is researching self-healing solders with a high load-bearing capacity alongside the Vienna University of Technology and the Materials Center Leoben. The material is being researched for potential application in connecting high-power LEDs and other power semiconductors in the automotive industry. ZKW develops and manufactures these kinds of electronic assemblies – such as control units and light modules – at the Wiener Neustadt location of ZKW Elektronik GmbH. “The Solaris project is helping us to develop new products custom-tailored to our automotive clients’ needs, and to make our manufacturing as environmentally friendly as possible while conserving resources. Our goal with this high-performance connection technology is to optimize the failsafe reliability of our electronic products” says Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
ZKW introduced the “Dragonfly” research and development project around a year ago. To launch the project, the lighting system specialist integrated optical sensors into the headlamps of a test vehicle to facilitate automated driving functions. Now, the system is being expanded with LiDAR – a method for optical measurements of distance and speed. This provides precise distance measurement even at night, improves lighting control and gives a key added boost to road safety. “Project Dragonfly will help create the sensor-based 360 degree view essential to autonomous driving. The goal of the research project is to further improve road safety” says Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
Headlamps are not just light sources, they are also a unique design element of any vehicle, and have to integrate seamlessly with the manufacturer’s brand image. ZKW created the international “brickZ Design Competition” to collect innovative ideas and concepts for future front lighting designs. Major design agencies took part in the competition, as well as talented engineers and students. The participants presented the designs they had submitted to a professional jury during the professional award ceremony on April 29th, 2020. KWAutomotive from Korea and Design Storz from Salzburg were selected as the winners. They will enjoy the grand prize totaling 15,000 euros and the chance to collaborate with ZKW. “We truly value innovation and a forward-thinking headlamp design. Competitions like this one help us find bright minds and make valuable partnerships,” explains Hannes Scheer, Head of Innovation at ZKW Group GmbH.
The ZKW Group GmbH submitted a total of 51 new patents in 2019. 17 patents were registered with the Austrian patent office. With this figure, the automotive supplier leads the Lower Austrian patent rankings for 2019. ZKW is 4th for new registrations across Europe. The Wieselburg company stands out in its industry with lighting system innovations, many of which center around digital light. The industrial company is also at the front of the pack when it comes to trademark registrations. Research and development are highly important at ZKW. The company uses the latest measurement technology and tests new products in its own light channel, which is one of the world’s largest. “Our patents represent the values of our company. Innovation is important to us, to illuminates a path towards the future” explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
Despite the difficult economic environment the automotive industry is facing, ZKW has enjoyed some admirable successes. The Wieselburg lighting specialist received four major awards over the last few weeks: In China, ZKW received the “Best Improvement Award” from Shanghai General Motors (SGM) for its unique achievements as a supplier. In the European market, ZKW was honored by General Motors with the “Supplier quality excellence award.” ZKW not only received the “German Design Award” for its newly developed stripeZ LED light module, but also won the coveted “Automotive Brand Contest” in the Future, Mobility & Parts category. “In times like these, we are especially proud of these awards. They confirm our innovative strategy once again, as well as our strong customer focus,” explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
The “Drive Light & Sight” start-up competition from ZKW and StartUs is launching its second round. This time, the specialist in lighting and electronic systems is looking for start-ups offering innovative solutions in the areas of sensors and auxiliary lamps. Submitted ideas will be evaluated by a professional jury and experts from ZKW. Prize money totaling 30,000 EUR and a space in the ZKW Partnership Program are up for grabs for a maximum of four of the most innovative start-ups selected by the jury. In addition, the winning concepts will be put into practice alongside innovation experts from ZKW and presented to clients like AUDI, BMW or Porsche at a road show. Applications can be submitted through May 31st, 2020. “Ongoing innovation is key to continuously developing our lighting systems. The goal of the competition is to find solutions that maximize safety for all road users in the age of autonomous driving” emphasizes Hannes Scheer, Head of Innovation at ZKW Group GmbH, alongside his innovation team.
As part of the “CarVisionLight” research project, ZKW is working with the Vienna University of Technology and software specialist emotion3D to develop intelligent light technology solutions. The project focuses on automatic image capturing and processing in traffic and adaptive lighting systems. The objective of this industrial research is to create lighting systems that “think with you,” and that can approach or even exceed the capabilities of human perception. CarVisionLight is funded by the Federal Ministry of Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, and is part of the ZKW technology program for sensor integration. The program also includes the “Dragonfly” project, which integrates sensors and cameras in headlamps to facilitate automated driving functions. “With CarVisionLight, we are combining our expertise with our partners to develop lighting systems for the next generation of cars” says Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
With a revenue of 1.25-billion euros and a new record number of employees, the lighting systems specialist is closing the 2019 financial year. At the end of the year, the ZKW Group employed around 10,000 people at ten locations in eight countries. The plant in Silao, Mexico, which went into operation in 2015, will be expanded by 19,000 square meters of production space by the end of 2020. It is planned to double the staffing level by 2023. High-quality headlamps for premium car manufacturers such as BMW, Daimler, Ford Lincoln, GM, Navistar, Nissan Infiniti, VW, and Volvo, are produced in Silao. ZKW is investing a total of around 67.5 million euros at the site in Mexico. The ZKW Group’s revenue was maintained at a high level of 1.25 billion euros despite the difficult conditions in the international automotive industry. “Despite the tense economic environment, we are continuing to expand our locations in order to remain competitive in the long term,” says Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group, explaining the strategy.
ZKW is expanding its company headquarters in Wieselburg substantially: The lighting systems specialist is constructing a new development laboratory at the same time as it builds its logistics center. The project covers an area of 2,500 square meters and represents an investment of around seven million euros over the next two years. The groundbreaking ceremony will be held this spring. The new laboratory and logistics building will open their doors in the summer of 2021. “Wieselburg is a hotbed of innovation, and the biggest driver behind our long-term corporate success. With this forward-thinking investment, we are building up the location by creating new jobs for technical specialists and expanding our expertise in the area of electronics”, explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.