Daniel is scouting for new technology…
Material that conducts electricity or two-legged robots.
Daniel Lexén is searching for new technology. He is the Volvo Group’s eyes and ears when it comes to trends and changes.
“I’m going to find the potential from which we can benefit,” he says.
Daniel Lexén, at Advanced Technology and Research, is the only person in the Volvo Group with the title of Technology Scout in Outlook. He explains that, even if he is the only one working full time scouting technology, there is a large network of specialists within the Group with whom he conducts a constant dialogue and collaborates closely.
“It’s my role to examine new technology at the earliest possible stage. I focus on the areas in which the Volvo Group does not traditionally work. Areas on the ‘edge’ that are relatively uncharted, areas whose future impact is as yet unknown. It’s a question of finding the things we are going to invest in right now and the ones we can and should not be afraid to wait with,” he adds and talks about technological developments that are taking place at lightning speed.
“We need to keep an eye on these developments, otherwise we are going to miss out on the important ones and be overtaken,” he says.
So what is he doing to identify the right areas in this technological jungle?
According to Daniel Lexén, it is first and foremost a question of sifting through the different areas and weighing them up.
“Take one thing at a time and don’t bite off more than we can chew. It goes without saying that the Volvo Group’s needs are my starting point. At the same time, I need to keep an open mind when it comes to technology which, at first glance, may not appear to be relevant to our operations but which may suddenly have a decisive effect on our competitive ability,” he explains.
One hot trend right now, according to Daniel Lexén, is developments in the field of nanotechnology and the opportunity, at atom level, to design new materials with improved characteristics. One exciting material within this technology is graphene. It was discovered some 10 years ago and it resulted in the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. Graphene cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is measured in nanometres, millionths of millimetres. Daniel Léxen describes its appearance as resembling chicken wire. Graphene can, for example, be mixed in plastic, it can conduct electricity and it can also be bent.
“Graphene is promising when it comes to future components or interior fittings in our vehicles,” says Daniel Lexén.
The development of robots is another interesting technology. Researchers in the USA are working on two-legged robots which will work in dangerous environments, such as clearance work following a nuclear accident.
According to Daniel Léxen, the Group could be interested in the technology for use in the vehicles that are being developed for the mining industry, for example.
Needless to say, the right prerequisites for his work include a genuine interest in technology, together with a generous helping of curiosity. Daniel Lexén spends a large part of his working day reading – everything from technical reports, articles and scientific investigations to information on what the Volvo Group’s competitors are doing and the patents they have obtained. He is helped by sophisticated tools that are able to process and analyse large volumes of information. He also collaborates closely with a number of large universities and institutes of technology in different parts of the world.
When he finds something interesting, he begins by checking with the relevant specialists within the Volvo Group. They then jointly assess whether it is worth continuing or whether they should wait.
“This dialogue is incredibly important, as 10,000 eyes can see far better than two and I welcome every opportunity to obtain input from the Group. We sometimes organise what is known as an innovation jam to spotlight certain questions,” Daniel says.
Daniel’s investigations sometimes actually lead to new patents for the Volvo Group. Right now, two patents are in the pipeline.
“It’s exciting, but so far it isn’t official, so I can’t say any more.”
When he is asked if he likes his job, Daniel Léxen smiles and explains that, during the three years he has been involved in technology scouting, he has never been bored.
“I am getting paid to pursue my hobby. I feel incredibly privileged, because I’m able to work on something I absolutely love. It goes without saying that making sure that we really keep ourselves updated and don’t miss a future technological change is also an enormous responsibility.”