December 8, 2021
Cosworth has continued to strengthen its executive team with the appointment of experienced automotive and consumer electronics professional Stef Balkowiec into the position of Managing Director Performance Electronics.
Balkowiec will play a pivotal role in Cosworth’s growth strategy and vision, leading the development of UX and digital cockpit product roadmaps.
Bringing over 25 years’ experience and an enviable reputation in the connected car space, Balkowiec will help Cosworth to further develop its performance electronics division, creating unique value propositions for OEMs based on the company’s extraordinary management of data analysis, control, and power.
In his most recent position, Balkowiec was Automotive Solutions Director at Harman International, where he led a global product team focused on digital cockpit development. Prior to that he carved out a name for himself at Symphony Teleca and Nokia-owned company NAVTEQ, where – for over a decade – he helped to pioneer automotive applications and products.
Innovation is firmly at the heart of Cosworth’s vision, just as it always has been, as it continues to grow and invest in transportation technology with leading expertise in the areas of performance, digitalisation, and electrification. Performance electronics is a key pillar of the business, and one in which Balkowiec’s experience will be influential.
Stef Balkowiec said: “Electrification is changing everything within vehicle infrastructure, and Cosworth is becoming a major player in this area. I am delighted to join such an epic company, whose vision remains as innovative and cutting edge as when it was first established. Previously, the different domains on vehicles – whether powertrain or electronics – were separate, but the future of mobility hinges, essentially, around a data centre on wheels. Cosworth is going through an important business transformation, and my role is one facet of that evolution. We need to manage that process carefully but setting the company up for impressive and unprecedented growth. We will be retaining the DNA, the essence of what makes Cosworth great, but we’ll be pushing the boundaries like never before – and that’s exciting.”
Q+A with Stef Balkowiec
Stef, how did you get into this industry initially?
“It started off with an automotive engineering foundation course at Coventry University. After a short while, I realised there was a new programme, a BSc in industrial product design, which is something that always interested me. It was a brand-new course that covered engineering broadly: technology, project management, product management and product design. Essentially, problem-solving, and that’s what has driven me to this day.”
Looking at the industry today, where do you see things heading?
“Vehicle infrastructure is evolving with the implementation of electrification. Previously, there would be many separate domains, a powertrain domain, body controller domain, cockpit domain, then you’d have an ADAS domain, all these fit within a domain architecture. What’s happening now is all these systems are being brought into a single unit. Basically, a data centre on wheels.
The future is a single computer platform with the ability to swap out applications, so domains become virtualised. There’s no longer the need to have individual control units for different systems within a vehicle. Moving forward there will be one silver box. From a software perspective you virtually create safety domains for each of the different systems within the control unit. For example, the infotainment, which is about the user experience, and ADAS, which is also about safety and security, all running on a single platform.”
What areas are Cosworth focusing on in particular?
“At Cosworth, we are shifting our focus in this direction, to develop technology that is applicable across a multitude of sectors. We are using our existing motorsport learnings and repurposing this into products that can form part of a common platform. You can see the beginnings of this already with our AliveDrive platform and technical partnerships in the field of data monetisation. The work being done on these programmes will certainly help us to map out Cosworth’s future from an electronics perspective.”
What do you see are the main challenges ahead?
“We’re currently going through a business transformation process, certainly within the electronics division, and with what Steve Dyke (COO) is doing on a bigger corporate level, so there is change happening within the company. We need to make sure we manage this transitional period carefully, to ensure that the business and the people within it are working together with the same understanding and expectations to maximise our growth. What we’re doing already is great, our customer base is strong and we’re producing some fantastic products, but we need to amplify our potential and look at how we can build upon our current offering. That’s the challenge we are going to face, and I think it’s a wonderful challenge.”
In your view, how do Cosworth’s road and race applications interlink?
“I believe software and platform virtualisation that can go both road-to-race and race-to-road is a way that we could continue our motorsport learnings. Motorsport is, and always will be, about pushing the boundaries. If we can develop the technology in an economic fashion, we can also scale production to meet OEM requirements for road vehicles, resulting in road and race applications that share a common platform. We won’t have to develop a different platform for race and road, instead it’s about managing different applications within the same hardware and how you are running those applications.”
Finally, what are your mantras in business?
“One of the most important things to remember is that markets can change very quickly. You must remain humble, even when things are going extremely well. It’s about retaining a self-drive to move forward, to question things and look for a better way. There’s always someone looking for an alternative. Empowering teamwork is also vital to foster a culture of collaboration, while enjoying what you do is absolutely key to become successful.”
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