Volvo and Penn State: A model partnership
What began as a research partnership focused on efficient energy solutions has evolved into a well-defined and expertly managed holistic relationship that spans research innovation, robust student engagement, strategic corporate giving, and professional development opportunities.

Penn State is an Academic Preferred Partner of the Volvo Group. The intention of the Academic Preferred Partner program is to connect Volvo Group expertise with global academic research and innovation environments in critical technology areas. The program operationalizes and creates processes to support university relationships. It also supports the Volvo Group in the creation of global teams of high performing people through increased employer attractiveness and improved access to key talent in the global market. As of 2019, the company maintains Academic Preferred Partner agreements with nine universities around the globe—two are in the United States and Penn State was the first.

“Suffice it to say that our academic partnership with Penn State has connected on every level—from members of the Volvo Group Executive Board to our research specialists and engineers.  Partnerships are two-way streets—and certainly our two-way street is delivering a lot of freight.  We look forward to developing and enhancing our impacts and relationships for many decades to come,” said Samuel L. Mclaughlin, External Research Manager Volvo Group Truck Technologies, a Penn State Agricultural Engineering graduate, and Penn State 2016 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award Recipient.

Over the past seven years, Volvo-funded research has been instrumental in completing projects of interest to Volvo and priority to the University, including the sponsorship of new research teams and faculty fellowships for energy. Success of a battery use and aging research project resulted in two additional projects and one patent.

Volvo has been a committed research partner of the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, Penn State’s transportation research center, as well as a vital part of the Thomas D. Larson Fund for Excellence. The fund seeks to engage undergraduate and graduate achievement in interdisciplinary public and private-sector transportation issues, encourage undergraduate and graduate achievement through scholarships and graduate fellowship support, ensure access by students and faculty to state-of-the-art equipment and technology, and empower the dissemination of educational and research knowledge and breakthroughs.

The Academic Preferred Partner program also expands opportunities for talent and learning among Penn State students and continuous learning for Volvo employees. The Volvo Group has hired approximately 100 Penn State students as full-time employees and an additional 150 students for co-op and intern positions. Volvo also supports a relationship with the College of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory—a hands-on facility for engineering students to use in conjunction with capstone student projects.

“The Volvo Group’s partnership with Penn State has seen a decade of progress, and we each continue to see benefits… We look forward to seeing what the next partnership innovations will bring.” Sam McLaughlin, Volvo Group external research manager.

Volvo has dedicated significant philanthropic resources to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center over the years, including sizeable contributions to Four Diamonds. Four Diamonds supports families that face pediatric cancer and is also supported by the largest student philanthropy group in the world, the Penn State IFC/ Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON). Additionally, the Piedmont Triad chapter of Volvo holds a THON event with the local Penn State alumni.

“The Penn State-Volvo relationship is incredibly important, because it represents a unique partnership that has not only endured, but continues to thrive,” said Melissa Erekson, assistant vice president for corporate engagement at Penn State. “The Volvo Group North America’s model for Academic Preferred Partnership highlights how universities and corporations can work together to solve real-world challenges and improve the lives of people around the globe.”

The Volvo Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction equipment and marine and industrial engines. The Group also provides complete solutions for financing and service. The Volvo Group, which employs nearly 100,000 people, has production facilities in 18 countries and sells its products in more than 190 markets. In 2018, the Volvo Group’s sales amounted to about $43 billion. The Volvo Group is a publicly held company headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden.