Enhancing strategic ties

The Faculty of Transportation Engineering and Vehicle Engineering at the BME collaborates with several prominent industrial partners. Jaguar Land Rover is one of the them.

The cooperation between the Department of Automotive Technologies of BME and Jaguar Land Rover Hungary Kft. (JLR) started almost five years ago. Nevijo Mance – the first managing director of JLR in Hungary – already saw significant opportunities in the partnership, and now Ákos Garaba, his successor, seeks to boost the cooperation. We talked to Ákos Garaba, CEO of JLR Hungary, and Dr Zsolt Szalay, Head of the Department of Automotive Technologies, about joint plans, the mutual benefits of the partnership and the role of universities in the 21st century.


How do industry and academia come together?

Zsolt Szalay:

We are delighted to have JLR's R&D organisation – one of the 5 OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) in Hungary – as a strategic partner. For universities, it is essential to build long-term strategic partnerships, rather than superficial ties, with key players in the relevant industries. This is why we value the relationship we have had with JLR since the establishment of its development centre in Budapest in 2018. And we are particularly pleased that the current managing director is personally linked to BME, what’s more, to our department.

Ákos Garaba:

Besides conscious decisions, luck also plays a part in the development of business partnerships. It was no accident that my predecessor, Nevijo Mance, started building a relationship with the Department, as the expertise of engineers graduating from BME is widely recognized. And it was perhaps a stroke of luck that I graduated here with Dr Szalay as one of my lecturers. As a former student, I am familiar with the kind of competence this university offers and the amount of effort one needs to put in to graduate. Hungarian engineering education is quite renowned, so it makes sense for the development centre to be located in Budapest. Many of my colleagues are also BME graduates, and their expertise reaffirms our positive experiences. As for me, I’m working on the development of a previously launched joint project. In addition, due to the importance of testing at JLR Hungary, we are also in contact with the ZalaZONE test track.


Why is it important for companies and universities to work in close partnership?


I firmly believe that cooperation between universities and industrial players has never been more crucial than it is today. Global progress – as well as the government’s objectives – seems to point in this direction.  Our experience shows that the quality of university education and research is highest where industry and academia are intertwined. Great examples of this can be found in the US, Sweden, Israel, and Singapore. We take good practices seen in these countries and strive to apply them in our local context.

We at BME consider it vital that our curriculum and educational themes remain up-to-date in an ever-changing world, and our industrial partnerships also play a part in this.


Long-term, well-functioning partnerships are based on mutual fulfilment. In our company, training is important for both employees and employers, as it is only possible to meet the rapidly changing needs of the industry through continuous professional development. Keeping knowledge up-to-date is key – not only for the employees but also for the company itself, as it ensures that the value of previously acquired knowledge is retained. With internal training, the knowledge that has been developed in-house stays in the company and there is no need to recruit new staff, which would be both time-consuming and costly. We have long-term plans for our employees, so being able to provide high-quality training locally is essential, and BME is the perfect partner for this. We see great potential in modular training and the related micro-certificates. These courses are highly effective: participants do not need to be enrolled in lengthy courses and their work performance is not affected negatively as the training can be focused on a single area, shortening its duration.


How is the traditional university curriculum compatible with the need for specialised continuous training?


A Master's programme has several courses running in parallel over one or more semesters.  Examples include semester-long courses on driver assistance systems or automotive communication systems. However, these can be blocked together to create one- or two-week courses, according to the needs of selected groups of employees. This makes intensive knowledge transfer and refreshment possible in a very short period of time. The size, traditions and competencies of BME make it well-suited to provide JLR with tailor-made, targeted and flexible training programmes to continuously update and expand the knowledge of the company's employees.  We treat these training programmes as a service, and while we deliver, we also learn a lot. Our goal is to provide high-quality, valuable training for JLR engineers. 

What makes a partnership successful?


It takes a clear understanding of your partner's needs, knowledge of your own competencies and, of course, ongoing, honest communication to fully understand your partner's values and priorities.


Innovation also plays a crucial role in our collaboration with the University. Successful innovation directly impacts our bottom line, and JLR is a profit-oriented company, so innovation that can be seamlessly integrated into large-scale production not only grants us a competitive edge but also contributes to our profitability. This is why we are keen on partnering with the Department to foster innovation. PhD students will also play a significant role in this, researching new areas where so far there are no established solutions or certain results. We are confident that they will conclude their doctoral studies with solid research results.


Cooperation for innovation – a strategic partnership – is important to us for several reasons. As a university, we succeed when our research aligns with the practical needs of our industry partners. 2024 marks the beginning of a significant chapter in our collaborative research: jointly with JLR, we will start the doctoral training of two PhD students whose independent research, under the professors’ guidance, will involve MSc and BSc students as well. This way we can introduce students to JLR as a potential employer from the very beginning of their studies. After graduation, they would be welcomed by the employer with open arms as their familiarity with the company would allow them to easily integrate into the organisation and the right role.

Innovation and education are intrinsically linked. From my point of view, the quality of our education and research is demonstrated by our capacity for innovation. It is one thing to teach something from a book; it is another to teach from practical experience that can only be gained through research and development projects. Through these, we learn which solutions work, which don't, and where the real challenges lie. The quality of our education significantly improves when we supplement our lessons with such practical knowledge. This is also a part of how universities are evolving in the 21st century: our industry partners can precisely communicate the competencies they require in engineers, allowing us to prepare our students to fulfil these demands, effectively transforming them into valuable professionals immediately upon graduation. Our partners share their technical problems with us, enabling us to identify new research avenues, and fostering a deeper and mutually beneficial collaboration.


Now, 5 years after its launch, JLR Hungary has reached a point where university cooperation takes the spotlight. We're currently in the process of finalising our plans for the two PhD students, working together to create a well-defined framework for the next phase of our partnership. We are aiming for multi-level collaboration, from internships to degree programmes and awards for academic competitions. There will be an increased emphasis on the exploration of common research areas as well, and we also have plans to bid for joint R&D projects with BME.


Yes, we are confident that our joint research will produce outstanding results in certain specialised areas. This cooperation is ideal for both parties: it is important for us to work with an OEM since few vehicle manufacturers in Hungary are involved in R&D, and BME is an optimal partner for JLR to meet its high standards and needs – whether it is the plannable supply of well-trained staff, the training of employees or the successful execution of research collaborations.




Photo: Viktor Kiss