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*FMCI CEO, Russell Vickers. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

A SHANNON BASED COMPANY continues to break new ground in the area of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Ireland’s first testbed for future mobility has the goal of stimulating research, development and innovation in the area of Autonomous Connected Electric Shared Vehicles (ACES), including Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) is located in the Shannon Free Zone.

Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI) was officially opened by the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar (FG) earlier this month, the company was founded in September 2019 by Russell Vickers and Wassim Derguech, the duo now hold the roles of Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer respectively.

Hosting the launch was a milestone considering the efforts made during the pandemic to keep the project on track.

Both Russell and Wassim previously worked together at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in Shannon as an engineering manager and agile delivery lead. Without question JLR’s arrival gave a lift to the Free Zone both in terms of employment but also the impressive infrastructure of its building. It too served as a driving force foe the duo to launch FMCI. “We founded the company basically because we were looking to get funding from the Regional Enterprise Development Fund. I was previously with Jaguar Land Rover, my background is in micro-chip design, I moved into automotive through Intel in Shannon, then to Jaguar Land Rover in Shannon, once JLR came to the region it was a real kick off piece, the brand and everything, everyone got really excited, from us being inside in JLR we wanted to push that forward and create something for the region, that is ultimately what Future Mobility Campus Ireland is,” Russell outlined.

Working in a novel space brings it own challenges which Russell and the team are relishing. “It’s really exciting, it’s exciting because there are so many challenges, a lot of these problems are really difficult, people think it is just autonomous cars but that is difficult to do and to do it everywhere, it is easy to do it on a motorway but it is really difficult to do on a road in West Clare where it’s getting tight with boreens and hedges, those problems are always harder to solve and we’ve got all the weather conditions here for good or for bad, it makes it really interesting”.

Initial plans for FMCI’s headquarters did not emphasis a future aspect significantly with a slight revision working well and leading Russell to equate their facility as “the bat cave”. He explained, “If you call something Future you have to live up to the name, our plans originally for the building were a bit more modest but as we started to move forward it changed. The type of companies that are going to be developing products here are world class companies, you have to give them a world class space to develop and thankfully that is here. The whole area, the Shannon Free Zone is transforming”.

Approximately 14,000 square feet, FMCI’s campus has four work bays, an open plan office space, dedicated labs and a control room. There’s much more to it, Russell stressed. “That is what you see within the building but we also have the whole Free Zone as a smart city for us, we have fibre running around the whole of the Free Zone and then all of our smart sensing technologies are around different lampposts around the Free Zone. We’ve got the building and the city, then we have a private testing area which is essentially looks like a giant car park but it is a very challenging car park area and that was developed with companies like Valeo and basically that is for testing parking. The last thing we’ve added is the vertiport where we’re looking at drones, that is located where the old long-term car park is, that is where we’re going to be able to fly and we want to expand those services as we go”.

Four people are currently working full-time at FMCI’s campus. Former senior vice president of Analog Devices, Dick Meaney, Caolan Bushell the Vice President of Business Development for Mergon Group, CEO of the Western Development Commission Tomás Ó Síocháin, Head of Department of Flexible Learning at TUS Orlaith Borthwick and Clare County Council’s Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally are among FMCI’s Directors. “We’re quite a small team but the idea is we host companies so companies will come here, they bring their engineers, they bring their cars, they bring their products, they do what they need to do and go back to their homeplace essentially”.

Companies from “all over Europe” and the United States are among those utilising FMCI’s facilities. “Some of the US companies are looking to develop products for Europe, then some of the other companies are looking to develop products with some of our partner companies, we’ve a lot of tech companies here like Analog Devices, Cisco and things like that, it’s really global but we have home-grown Irish companies like Provisio, a Limerick based company with a small enough team of about thirty people and they are developing world-class products that are going to be sold in vehicles all over the world, to have that on our doorstep, to be helping and working with them is amazing”.d

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