A portion of an $85.8 million grant given to FCA Canada by the Ontario government will enhance innovative research at the University of Windsor - Fiat Chrysler Canada Automotive Research and Development Centre (ARDC).
Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement on June 15 during a celebration of the 20-year partnership between UWindsor and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Canada. The automotive industry and academia partnership led to the inception of the ARDC in May 1996, marking the first of its kind in Canada.
“Collaboration between academia and industry is at the heart of innovative clusters around the world,” said Alan Wildeman, president of the University of Windsor. “The University of Windsor is proud of its 20-year partnership with FCA Canada in ARDC, the country’s largest automotive research centre. As at every university and college in Ontario, we have researchers and creative minds that want to bring solutions to the challenges and opportunities that our province’s industries are navigating. We are very grateful to the many ways in which the province is supporting that goal.”
Wynne said the grant comes from the Jobs and Prosperity Fund. Nearly $17 million will support research and development at the ARDC while $69 million will fund advanced training for the workforce at the Windsor Assembly Plant and technology enhancements related to the production of the new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid—a vehicle that includes advance powertrain and light-weighting technologies designed in part by UWindsor students.
“This partnership with Chrysler ensures that we are building the vehicles of tomorrow,” Wynne said.
The ARDC has a direct role in the product design and engineering of nearly every product in FCA’s portfolio. The facility conducts a wide range of research, including extreme weather testing, corrosion control, precision night-time headlight testing and rigorous testing that involves millions of kilometres of road test simulation.
“We started with a $30 million investment and today we are investing over $1 billion at the ARDC,” said Reid Bigland, president of FCA Canada. “Today, this is Canada’s most sophisticated R&D facility integrated with design, innovation and manufacturing.”
The ARDC employs 180 people and nurtures a highly skilled labour pool of student engineers.
More than 500 students have been trained at the facility, many of whom have become employees of the facility, like UWindsor graduate André Levesque.
Levesque was first exposed to the hands-on industrial experience at ARDC during a UWindsor co-op placement. He was hired as a multi-body dynamics analyst in 2012, the same year he completed his masters in mechanical engineering.
“Having that connection with the automotive sector was great,” said Levesque, who moved from Sault Ste. Marie to take advantage of UWindsor’s automotive program. “I initially thought I’d have to work in the states. However, having this opportunity and being able to work in Canada has just been great.”
Jean-Paul Martins, another UWindsor graduate, was offered a position as a 1D system simulation engineer before he completed his graduate studies in mechanical engineering.
“There’s a lot of collaboration between groups which is really nice,” Martins said. “It’s great to be able to take my theoretical knowledge and apply it and know that it’s making a difference in making cars better and safer.”