Malaysian national carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd has opened its research and development (R&D) center at Hangzhou Bay in China last Saturday to strengthen its collaborative efforts with its existing partner Zhejiang Geely Holding Ltd (Geely) in a move to complement its existing facilities in Malaysia.

Located within the Geely Automobile Research Institute (GRI) at Hangzhou Bay, the opening of PROTON R&D Center (China) also coincides with the 50th anniversary of
diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia, Proton said in a statement on Monday.

Proton said the firm continues to invest and expand R&D facilities locally in Shah Alam and Tanjong Malim, Malaysia while developing an experienced human capital pool.

It said over the past few decades, the firm has built up a wealth of competencies unique not only to Malaysia but the ASEAN region as well.

It noted that with the opening of Proton R&D Centre (China), these abilities have now been strengthened by enhancing the synergies of Proton’s existing in-house competencies with the resources and know-how of Geely.

According to the statement, the center will also help to enhance cross-border collaboration, facilitate knowledge transfer between Proton and Geely as well as drive innovation for products tailored to meet the needs of Proton’s customers.

Aspiring to mirror the success story of China Euro Vehicle Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, it said this latest development moves Proton’s R&D facilities in Malaysia closer to becoming the sixth in the Geely Group’s global network of R&D centers.

To maximize the respective strengths of each partner and to adapt to the strategic development needs of the group, it said the new center will draw from the combined expertise and experience of engineers from both Malaysia and China.

Eventually, with a workforce of approximately 50 employees, it will become a framework for Proton and Geely’s international talent training and output.

It is noted that the new center is envisaged as a window for joint development between Proton and Geely where new concepts across all areas are brought to fruition, from top-hat and platform integration for internal combustion engines (ICE) and future electric vehicle (EV) models to intelligent driving, and project management.

This includes the upgrading of Proton’s homegrown models where the center will leverage on its joint resources with Geely assisting the work being led by PROTON R&D engineers in Malaysia.

Proton will also be able to enhance its competitiveness by leveraging on Geely’s global footprint.

The center will also function as a critical liaison platform for Proton to engage with capable vendors for the continuous development of the Automotive Hi-Tech Valley in Tanjong Malim, Perak, including focusing on full business life cycle areas such as quality, procurement, and manufacturing.

It is noted that the new center has three departments to ensure smooth operations, namely, the Central Research Institute, Data Intelligence Development Center, and R&D Digitization Center.

These departments will coordinate closely with their Geely counterparts to leverage local resources in China and are responsible for the development results of their respective teams.

The Central Research Institute is responsible for coordinating the R&D system for vehicles and to strengthen Proton’s technology capabilities.

The Data Intelligence Development includes the research development and delivery of big data and artificial intelligence before formulating product deployment plans, while the R&D Digitization Centre explores and manages the digitization needs of the R&D system and formulating of strategies for digital transformation.

In addition, the center has also established an external cooperation research institute, which will be tasked with the delivery of whole vehicle functions and the development of ecosystem integration for external projects.

“We have witnessed the birth of a facility that allows us to work closer than ever with our partners and will inspire connections for years to come while helping to expand Proton’s global presence,” said Li Chunrong, Chief Executive Officer of Proton.

“It is our hope this important milestone would enable us to move towards our goal of Proton becoming the sixth Geely Group R&D center, while bolstering Proton’s existing capabilities that are already well established in Malaysia,

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to pushing boundaries, challenging the status quo, and making endless possibilities for the future of mobility,” he added.

Proton began as Malaysia’s first national car project, founded with the aim to accelerate Malaysia’s economic development and lay the foundations for the local automotive industry.

In 2017, the firm entered its next phase to be a global automotive brand through a partnership between its two principals, Malaysian conglomerate DRB-HICOM and Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

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