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Ford's supplier diversity initiative focuses on innovation and sharing new technology.

Automaker Ford Motor Co. has launched an initiative to assist minority- and women-owned business enterprises in developing innovative products and technical expertise. Under its Joint Technology Framework (JTF) program, Ford will provide designated suppliers special access to intellectual property (IP) assets so they can develop products for future commercial use.

"We need to support our minority- and women-owned suppliers in moving toward a business model that competes on technology, in addition to cost," says Tony Brown, Ford's group vice president of global purchasing. "We will work with our suppliers on innovating new products -- allowing them to attract the engineering talent and new sources of capital to migrate these technologies to the next level."

Suppliers will have access to certain IP from Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, which is tasked with anticipating automotive industry trends and requirements five to 10 years into the future, then developing solutions that can be incorporated into Ford products and processes. It currently has 12 areas of focus, from power train to advanced modeling to environmental science and emissions. The division accounts for more than one-third of the company's IP.

In some cases, Ford will provide outside entities, such as universities or other companies, a license to use its patents. The JTF initiative puts in place a formal process in which minority- and women-owned enterprises will have access to specific product and process IP that can directly benefit their businesses.

An initial group of six minority and women-owned suppliers were identified to launch the initiative, each of whom is a member of the company's Aligned Business Framework (ABF). The program emphasizes stronger collaboration with suppliers, and provides greater opportunity for minority- and women-owned business enterprises to build scale, achieve profitable growth and become sustainable enterprises over the long term.

According to Brown, the JTF is a key enabler to further delivering on the company's ABF commitments. "ABF and our new joint technology initiative are consistent with our guiding One Ford' philosophy of achieving profitable growth for all of our stakeholders," he says. "Suppliers are part of the Ford team, and with them we are working toward delivering on that goal."

Ford's history of supplier diversity includes purchasing $4.2 billion in goods and services from Tier 1 minority-owned suppliers in 2007, in addition to spending $1.2 billion with Tier 1 women-owned suppliers.

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