SPE® Announces Call for Presentations for 47th Annual Automotive Innovation Awards Competition & Gala

The Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE®) is announcing a “Call for Nominations” for its 47th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala, the oldest and largest recognition event in the automotive and plastics industries, and due dates for the event’s annual Parts Competition and Hall of Fame Award. This year’s Awards Gala will be held Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at the Burton Manor in Livonia, Michigan. Winning part nominations (due by September, 13, 2017) in 9 different categories, and the teams that developed them, will be honored with a “Most Innovative Use of Plastics” award. A “Grand Award” will be presented to the winning team from all category award winners. An application that has been in continuous use for 15 years or more, and has made a significant and lasting contribution to the application of plastics in automotive vehicles, (nominations due by May 31, 2017) will be honored with a “Hall of Fame” award.

“As the auto industry is progressing to meet 2025 CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) and regional emissions standards, it is also advancing rapidly with intelligent vehicle technologies, many of which are already present on today’s cars and trucks,” explains Jeffrey Helms, global automotive director, Celanese Corp. who returns as the 2017 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards chair. “Plastics and composites have always been a material solution for lightweighting, comfort, performance and compact design. These same materials are now enabling the design of parts and components for autonomous vehicle components and subsystems.   The intelligent use of the right plastics and robust design will assist automakers and their suppliers in delivering the technologies and features that customers want while meeting regulatory or affordability targets. This led to selection of Intelligent Automotive Design with Plastics as our 2017 program theme. Last year, our program attracted the largest attendance in recent history, with close to 800 attendees, and with increasing interest in intelligent vehicle systems, including autonomous vehicles, we expect this year’s attendance to be that or higher.

Since 1970, the SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Competition has highlighted the positive changes that polymeric materials have brought to automotive and ground-transportation industries, such as weight and cost reduction, parts consolidation, increased safety, and enhanced aesthetics and design freedom. At the time the competition started, in 1970, many OEM designers and engineers thought of plastics as inexpensive replacements for more “traditional” materials. To help communicate that plastics were capable of far more functionality than their typical use as decorative knobs and ashtrays indicated, members of the board of directors of SPE’s Automotive Division created the competition to recognize successful and innovative plastics applications and to communicate their benefits to OEMs, media, and the public.

Over the years, the competition drew attention to plastics as an underutilized design tool and made industry aware of more progressive ways of designing, engineering, and manufacturing automotive components.  From its humble beginnings, the competition has grown to be one of the most fiercely contested recognition events in the automotive and plastics industries. Today, polymeric materials are no longer substitutes for more expensive materials, but rather are the materials of choice in hundreds of different applications throughout the vehicle.   Without plastics, many of the auto industry’s most common comfort, control, and safety applications would not be possible.

During the competition phase of the event, dozens of teams made up of OEMs and suppliers work for months to hone submission forms and presentations describing their part, system, or complete vehicle module to support claims that it is the year’s “Most Innovative Use of Plastics.” To win, teams must survive a pre-competition review and two rounds of presentations before industry and media judges.

There is no cost to nominate parts, however, nominations that are accepted into the competition need to be presented (in person or via webinar) by their nominating teams during the first round of Automotive Innovation Awards Competition judging, September 27 – 28, 2017 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Finalists from that round advance to a second presentation before a panel of Blue Ribbon judges made up of media, retired chief engineers, and other industry experts on October 9, 2017 (also in Auburn Hills, Mich.) Winners of each part category, the Grand Award, Hall of Fame, and Lifetime Achievement winner will all be honored during the Automotive Innovation Awards Gala on November 8, 2017. This annual event typically draws over 700 OEM engineers, automotive and plastics industry executives, and media. Funds raised from the event are used to support SPE educational programs including technical seminars and conferences, which help educate and secure the role of plastics in the advancement of the automobile.

Current competition categories include:

  • Aftermarket
  • Body Exterior
  • Body Interior
  • Chassis/Hardware
  • Electrical Systems
  • Environmental
  • Hall of Fame
  • Materials
  • Process, Assembly & Enabling Technologies
  • Powertrain
  • Safety


The mission of SPE is to promote scientific and engineering knowledge relating to plastics worldwide and to educate industry, academia, and the public about these advances. SPE’s Automotive Division is active in educating, promoting, recognizing, and communicating technical accomplishments in all phases of plastics and plastic-based composite developments in the global transportation industry. Topic areas include applications, materials, processing, equipment, tooling, design, and development.

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