The infinite academy

The INFINITI Engineering Academy is INFINITI’s global search for some of the best young engineers in the world to work across automotive and Formula 1, on a 12-month unique training program. Now in its third successive year, the academy provides a money-can’t-buy, life changing career opportunity for seven world-class students to learn from veteran engineers and play an active role in INFINITI’s technical partnership with the Renault Sport Formula 1 team. We sit down with Tommaso Volpe, Global Director at INFINITI Motorsport to find out more about this academy.

Mr Volpe, tell us how did it all start?

Simply put, we set up the INFINITI Engineering Academy so that engineers from all over the world could gain experience in the automotive engineering and motorsport industries. That is because INFINITI believes that behind every technological innovation there lies human genius, we want to offer top engineering talents a highly-attractive opportunity in conjunction with our partnership with the Renault Sport Formula 1 team.

How has the academy evolved since its inaugural edition?

We were overwhelmed with the level of interest we received from students all over the world; hence we have increased the number of placements available and the number of participating countries involved every year.

Today, seven placements are available and students can apply from 44 different countries, making the program a truly global mix of engineering expertise and a platform of cultural diversity.

Today, seven placements are available and students can apply from 44 different countries, making the program a truly global mix of engineering expertise.

Our team is now in the process of selecting these seven winners for the 2016/2017 edition at each of the seven regional final events. Only a few weeks ago Caitlin Bunt won the US regional final, becoming the academy’s first ever female winner.

Students can see the accomplishments of our previous academy graduates and the unique nature of the placement, which combines work experience in both automotive and Formula 1.

Have some goals or aims changed since the beginning?

Our main goal since the very beginning of the program has been to give an opportunity to young talents, as it was proven on many occasions that the human talent is at the core of any technological accomplishment in automotive as well as in motorsport.

What has changed in 2016 is that INFINITI entered a technical partnership with the newly formed Renault team, specifically for the co-development of the second generation of the Energy Recovery System (ERS), in use from the 2017 season. This partnership generates strong links between Formula 1 and road car development, and we expect to see a transfer of technologies and overall learnings.

Our close ties with Renault as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance turn the academy into an even more strategic recruitment platform for our corporation. At the same time, it allows us to offer a truly technically rich, multi-discipline engineering placement.

The academy is obviously also a platform to explore more areas of technical collaboration with the Renault Formula 1 team, beyond the ERS.

How would you describe the ideal candidate for the INFINITI Engineering Academy?

The ideal candidates are of course engineers who are technically very strong, but they need to excel in other areas too. Whether you’re designing and building road cars or working in Formula 1, the ability to think laterally, creatively and operate seamlessly within a team is crucial. It will be tough and they will be expected to work very hard, but the rewards are high.

We look for candidates for the INFINITI Engineering Academy that dare to be different. Engineers who think about challenges from fresh angles, brimming with the kind of creative human talents that we believe drive the greatest advances in high performance technologies. “Game changers” may sound clichéd, but the automotive industry and Formula 1 have never been more competitive, so this is a high-profile opportunity for the best of the best.

The academy is obviously also a platform to explore more areas of technical collaboration with the Renault Formula 1 team, beyond the ERS.

Where are the winners of the very first competition now, professionally speaking?

The 2014 winner, William Priest, is now a valued member of our engineering community. He has a full time role at our European Technical Centre.

We want to attract and retain really talented individuals, people who are the technology engineers of tomorrow – and the academy ensures that we do! INFINITI can help remarkable candidates like William enjoy a great career, because they get work experience in both the automotive engineering and motorsport industries whilst perfecting their skills.

The INFINITI Engineering Academy is clearly a great opportunity for young engineers, but does INFINITI benefit as well from this programme?

Of course; the most important component of any car company is its people, and recruiting the very best new engineers is critical to the company’s long-term product development success.

Our multicultural recruitment programme injects further enthusiasm into our team, bringing a breath of fresh air and renewed zeal that, combined with our standards, means we can retain our prime position on the winding track of our ever-changing industry.

INFINITI aspires to recruit the brightest, best talents, because we believe that by doing so we will be able to offer our clients the very latest technologies. The INFINITI family therefore consists of experienced engineers and young prodigies from all over the world.

Is the academy working with other educational/engineering institutions?

Yes, the academy has partnered with Formula SAE and Formula Student since the beginning of 2016. Both organisations embody the spirit of the academy, providing real experience to engineering students and giving them a platform to learn and to develop their careers.

By pitting the world’s best students against each other in a comprehensive vehicle design and performance contest, each institution encourages a disciplined automotive to motorsport mind-set; exactly the calibre of student that the academy is looking for.

By pitting the world’s best students against each other in a comprehensive vehicle design and performance contest, each institution encourages a disciplined automotive to motorsport mind-set; exactly the calibre of student that the academy is looking for.

Furthermore, the academy also works with a number of leading universities around the world, engaging students at specific guest speaker events featuring personnel from INFINITI Motor Company and the Renault Sport Formula 1 team.

How are the current Formula 1 technical regulations relevant to INFINITI?

The introduction of hybrid engine technology in 2014 was a landmark change for the sport, sparking a wave of engine technology developments that have already started to trickle down to road cars.

Our company has been at the forefront of performance hybrid technology for many years and now we can see particular relevance with this technology in motorsport, with the new breed of downsized, hybrid powertrains used in Formula 1.

This is why INFINITI entered a technical partnership with the Renault team for the co-development of the ERS, transferring INFINITI’s engineering resources to Renault’s powertrain R&D facility in Viry-Châtillon (Paris).




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