Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi automotive Alliance announced the launch of Alliance Ventures, a new VC fund that plans to invest up to $1 billion to support open innovation over the next five years, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas.
In its first year, the fund expects to invest up to $200 million in start-ups, and open innovation partnerships with techpreneurs focused on new mobility, including vehicle electrification, autonomous systems, connectivity and AI.
Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, said, “Our open innovation approach will allow us to invest and collaborate with start-up companies and technology entrepreneurs, who will benefit from the global scale of the Alliance. This new fund reflects the collaborative spirit and entrepreneurial mindset at the heart of the Alliance.”
The initial VC investment comes in addition to more than 8.5 billion euros in total annual R&D investments by the Alliance members, he added. Alliance Ventures, he said, will be led by François Dossa, till recently, the CEO of Nissan Brazil.
Alliance Ventures will define innovation areas and markets for investment, working with existing research and advanced engineering teams, and will recruit VC experts to develop the platform. It is expected to be co-located in Silicon Valley, Paris, Yokohama and Beijing, close to the technology and research centres of the Alliance member companies.
Renault (40%), Nissan (40%) and Mitsubishi Motors (20%) will jointly fund the entity, which will have a dedicated investment committee to make investment decisions and monitor their performance.
Automakers globally are seeking to marry their manufacturing prowess with the nimbleness of start-ups that are working on futuristic technologies such as electrification, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. “Some of them think far, far ahead into the future,” Ghosn said.
Alliance Ventures’ first strategic investment is in Ionic Materials, a Woburn, Massachusetts-based company developing cobalt-free solid-state battery materials that can be used in electric vehicles. The Alliance is the industry leader in zero-emission vehicles and its Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric vehicle in the world.