Volvo's Corporate Campus
The corporate campus phenomenon has existed since the 1940s, and has gained momentum in the new millennium thanks to companies like Google and Apple. Now the Volvo Group is making a big investment in bringing as many units and employees as possible together in a single location: Campus Lundby on the island of Hisingen in Gothenburg.
The world’s first:
corporate campus, Bell Labs in New Jersey, was built in 1942 by the American telephone giant AT&T.
In the 1950s:
General Motors, General Electric and General Life Insurance were some of the companies that followed in Bell’s footsteps. They usually built the facilities - also called industrial parks, technology parks or research parks - in suburbs offering housing for middle-class people, often researchers and engineers with their families.
Apart from being:
a physical workplace for many people, a corporate campus can serve many other purposes. Eye-catching buildings that look good in pictures are a good way to market the companies and their core values to the media and potential employees. This makes the campus a vital part of the brand.
In the new millennium:
corporate campuses have seen a revival. Companies have followed the Silicon Valley model and created a center with sports and recreation facilities, free cafés, a relaxed dress code and flexible working hours. In an era when many people can work from anywhere, campuses create a sense of unity, belonging and loyalty. One US study shows that a corporate campus makes it easier to recruit and keep employees.
There are many good reasons to bring AB Volvo’s various R&D departments in Gothenburg together in a single location. One obvious reason is that it’s good for creativity and innovation if the people working with trucks or buses get to meet the people that develop boat motors and wheel loaders.
“When people with a range of different backgrounds and experiences meet, it increases the chances of generating ideas that can lead to new business,” says Katrin Leiier, Communication and Project Coordinator at Campus Lundby. “But it’s also important that we have the opportunity to sit down with the external companies that we work with. There’s growing interest in this from all sides.”
Yet another reason is that employees that need to work together are currently spread out at different addresses across Gothenburg. This means a lot of time and money is being spent on trips within the city.
“When you work as we do today, there’s a risk that people get a bit isolated in their silos,” Leijer says. “If we’re all based in the same location, it makes it easier to create synergies between different business areas.”
Volvo expects the investment to have many positive effects, and hopes that Campus Lundby will also create a ripple effect, generating jobs and sustainable innovations outside Volvo as well.
“That would be really great,” says Jenny Jarneholt, Vice President at Campus Lundby. “But to begin with, our concrete vision is to build a hub where we develop the transportation systems of the future.”
Officially she is part of the Volvo Group Real Estate company, which has 350 employees and operates in 35 countries.
“Because Volvo’s operations are becoming more and more global, it wasn’t a given that an investment like this would be made in Gothenburg,” Jarneholt says. “Some of the deciding factors included the ideal geographical location, allowing us to attract people with key skills.”
The corporate campus concept arose in the United States in the 1940s (see sidebar) when major companies, modeling themselves on big universities, began building facilities in suburbs, where land was relatively cheap and there was space to build homes. Acclaimed examples of the corporate campus revival in the new millennium include the Googleplex and Apple Park in northern California.
“Certainly, we’ve been inspired by other places and companies,” Jarneholt admits, “but at the same time we’re making a point of creating something unique that builds on our history. In eight years, it will be the hundredth anniversary of the first Volvo car rolling out of Lundby, and we have historic buildings here that we want to keep. Our history combined with all the new developments—continuous technological progress, digitalization and sustainability—will create an attractive workplace.”
The detailed plan for Campus Lundby has been approved by Gothenburg City Council and construction will begin in 2020. But an initial phase, CampX (named after the historic X Hall building), has already been completed and opened last spring. CampX is described as a global arena where partners, customers, suppliers, startups, universities and government agencies are invited to participate in partnerships developing the transportation solutions of the future.
Exactly how big Campus Lundby is going to be, or when it will be completed, is hard to determine precisely. A typical trait of corporate campuses is that as long as land is available, they can keep expanding in stages.
“What we know is that we’re going to build intensively over the coming ten years,” Leijer says. “How fast it will proceed after that depends on community planning, the economic climate and what the site itself can handle. But we expect to have space for about 15,000 employees, of whom about 10,000 will be Volvo staff.”
This means that there will be twice as many people working in the Lundby area as there are today, which will require better transportation options. It won’t work for everyone to drive to work in their own car.
“No, it will require more people to use public transport,” Leijer confirms. “We’re in intense discussions with the City of Gothenburg and the Västra Götaland Region about this, and also about infrastructure development.”
A huge investment like this in an extensive workplace hub will naturally affect the surroundings and the people that live there, not just in terms of improving local public transport.
“I hope that Gothenburgers will find Campus Lundby an exciting new city district,” Jarneholt says. “Parts of the area will be closed to the public, partly because of confidential business operations and in partly for security reasons.
But apart from that, we’ll strive for as much openness as possible. Among other things, we’re looking at removing parts of the fencing in the area.
“We’ve also begun to look at what services are needed when so many people work in the area, which will also benefit local residents. It’s important to us that we make sure this is a vibrant campus. We’re going to create an innovative center that attracts the best engineers in the world. Vehicle and transportation engineers will be familiar with Volvo and our campus, and will feel that this is a place where they want to come and work.”