DENSO announced this week it has invested nearly $100 million over a four-year period in startup companies around the world. The investments are part of the company’s long-term vision to provide software-based solutions focused on electrification, automated driving, connectivity and shared economy. From cyber security to semiconductors and sensors, DENSO is investing in startup companies working on key technologies that will play a major role in advancing mobility services that are safe, secure and efficient.
According to Tony Cannestra, director of corporate ventures at DENSO, the company used to be “all about spark plugs and air conditioning units,” and while those are still important product categories for DENSO, Cannestra said the company realized it needed to keep pace with the innovation taking place in the auto industry today.
“DENSO has traditionally been self-sufficient with its R&D efforts. About five years ago, we realized that to keep pace with the predicted changes in the automotive industry and consumer demand, we needed to embrace an open innovation model that places equal importance on internal and external technology development in all product areas,” said Cannestra. “… we are focused on building a strong ecosystem of software, advanced hardware and other mobility technologies to quickly and flexibly develop unique solutions that meet the needs of our customers, especially in EVs and autonomous driving.”
Recent investment areas for DENSO include:
- Autonomous and Shared Mobility: DENSO invested additional dollars into Ridecell’s Series B funding round for the development of shared mobility. Its partnership with Thinci is enhancing deep learning capabilities required for autonomous vehicles.
- Cybersecurity: DENSO led Dellfer’s initial funding round to help the company develop cybersecurity safeguards for connected and autonomous vehicles.
- Electrification: An investment in FLOSFIA is focused on a semiconductor device expected to reduce the energy loss, cost, size and weight of inverters used in electrified vehicles.
- Sensing: Along with a handful of other strategic investors, DENSO invested in Metawave Corp. to accelerate the development and improve performance of in-vehicle, “smart” radar sensors for autonomous cars.
Several DENSO-backed startups will join DENSO at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Thinci, Dellfer, Metawave and Ridecell will demo their technologies for attendees in DENSO’s booth No. 4619, at CEO, Jan. 8-11, 2019, in Las Vegas.
Looking ahead, DENSO says it will continue to invest in startups and entrepreneurs who can help accelerate innovation in the automotive industry. In 2011, DENSO took steps to strengthen and grow its core automotive business and identify and support non-auto technologies that could be used to advance mobility when it opened its Silicon Valley location. In 2014, DENSO expanded that office to further support and promote startup companies and advanced R&D activities in multiple areas of innovation. In 2016, DENSO began opening satellite R&D offices all around the world to create advanced technologies and services.
“DENSO has been around for a long time and we want to be here for another 70-plus years for our customers and employees,” said Cannestra. “To ensure that happens, we need great partners who are focused on developing technologies to radically advance our mode of transportation now and well into the future.”