Research and development activities

  • The value of investments in research activity is expected to remain at about 3% of sales
  • Innovative processes used for materials mixing and tyre building in all product segments
  • Pirelli has confirmed its leadership as measured by performance, safety and ecocompatibility
  • The group has received various forms of recognition for its research activity

Pirelli Group research and development activities are key to pursuit of its growth strategy. Product and process innovation and exploitation of new business opportunities depend on Reseach and Development.

Group reseach and development costs, which are fully expensed in the annual income statement, totalled euro 150 million, representing a 3.1% ratio to sales. Research and development activities are concentrated in Pirelli Tyre, with costs of euro 146 million. This Group subsidiary has a research centre in Italy and eight application centres worldwide, and is staffed by over 1,000 employees – 60% of whom are from countries other than Italy. The value of investments in research activity is expected to remain at about 3% of sales over the next three years, one of the highest levels in the industry.

All of these factors will enable the Group to increase the number of its patents (currently over 4,500), maintain its capacity to produce innovative Premium products, continue perfecting innovative processes used for materials mixing and tyre building in all product segments (car, motorcycle and commercial vehicles), and develop alternative materials to replace traditional ones. This will reduce production costs and improve the environmental sustainability of Group products.

The exchange of know-how amongst the Group's various businesses, partnership with best-of-class suppliers and continuous collaboration with leading university research centres and major car makers provide the Group with the technology necessary to develop cutting-edge products, which are successfully tested in the most important motorsport disciplines and then put on the road to satisfy specific customer requirements. Traditionally focused on the development of new highend products (UHP, winter, runflat, SUV and motorcycle tyres), Reseach and Development activity has been complemented by increasing strategic attention to the reduction of environmental impact, through the exploitation of technological components and the most advanced know-how. These resources are the result of intense research on materials, prototypes, profiles, tread patterns and processes.

As a result of its research and development activity in 2010, Pirelli has confirmed its leadership as measured by performance, safety and ecocompatibility, demonstrating that it has fully adopted the philosophy and fundamental values of Green Performance.

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This Green Performance strategy is based on comprehensive technological innovation:

  • engineering times and costs have been substantially reduced, with a consequent positive impact on total product cost. In the production processes area, the application of cutting-edge systems like MIRS (a robotised tyre production process owned exclusively by Pirelli) and the innovative compound system CCM (Continuous Compound Mixing System) make it possible to develop products by means of extremely high quality and flexible processes using low amounts of energy;
  • use of new organic bio-materials, with a beneficial impact on the environment and costs. Plans call for development of Green Performance products in different segments, especially by reinforcing the Group's leadership in the Premium segment;
  • technological partnerships with other leaders in the industry. Pirelli has collaborated for several years with several of the world's most important research institutions, including the Milan Polytechnic, the Turin Polytechnic, the University of Craiova and Shandong University, while it develops new technology on an "open innovation" basis with STM, Comau, Sinteco, Evotek and many other industrial partners;
  • development of the technological and production centre at Settimo Torinese, with the aim of creating the Group's most technologically advanced and efficient "green" tyre production facility. This project is part of a process that guarantees higher standards of factory efficiency and productivity.

Pirelli is also in the vanguard with development of the Cyber Tyre project. This is an intelligent tyre that can transmit information to the vehicle essential for its stability and driving safety. In 2010, the Cyber Tyre Lean sensor was given its world première at Geneva. The sensor complies with the new European standard that requires adoption of a system for measuring the pressure of tyres on all vehicles that are newly approved for road use beginning in 2012. This development was realised in collaboration with Schrader-Tomkin, leading world maker of pressure sensors, and marks the first step towards the creation of a sensor-equipped tyre that can communicate with vehicle control systems for the realisation of new vehicle safety functions while simultaneously providing data useful for designing and perfecting the tyre. The Group has received various forms of recognition for its research activity.

Pirelli was recognised as the best tyre supplier of the year in Japan. This award was received from Autobacs, the historic Japanese reseller of automotive spare parts and accessories founded in 1947 with locations worldwide. It awarded Pirelli for the major contribution made to Autobacs sales in 2009, which were driven by the success of the P4 Four Season.

Another form of recognition came in the form of the "Original Equipment Tire Satisfaction Index Study", conducted by the prestigious JD Power & Associates research institute, which annually surveys the general level of driver satisfaction. This study showed that American drivers prefer Pirelli high-performance tyres for sports cars. The trade press rewarded Pirelli with numerous forms of recognition in 2010. "Exemplary, with no weaknesses": this was the brilliant result achieved by the Cinturato P7 in ecologically focused summer tests organised in Germany by the specialised magazine "Autobild." These tests were held to assess the capacity of this type of product to combine energy savings and safety features, even under the most demanding conditions on wet roads. When compared with four other 205/55R16 V tyres, the Pirelli "green" tyre designed for medium and high-powered cars received the highest overall score. It stood out especially for its performance on wet road surfaces – handling and braking distance – and aquaplaning on curves. "Exemplary" was the final judgement of "Autobild," which did not find any drawbacks with the Pirelli Cinturato P7, remarking only on "its convincing talent, satisfying energy savings characteristics, smooth driving performance, stable grip on curves and limited braking distances both on dry and wet pavement, and quiet ride."

Pirelli passed the 2010 summer tests organised by the German press with brilliant results. Various Pirelli tyre models topped the test rankings, from the high-performance PZero to the reliable Chrono, as well as the Cinturato family of tyres. Pirelli can offer the best products, establishing new standards that are recognised by the most prestigious trade magazines and toughest automobile clubs in Germany.

In particular:

  • Zero won top prize from "AutoZeitung" handsdown for its excellent balancing;
  • Scorpion ATR won the "AutoBildallrad" test of safety and grip on all types of terrain;
  • Cinturato P6 was ranked "highly recommended" by ADAC for its excellent balancing, performance on wet pavement, and low wear;
  • Cinturato P7 is "highly recommended" by ADAC, "AutoZeitung" and "Automotorsport" for its excellent balancing, low rolling resistance and sportiness;.
  • Chrono was recognised by "Promobil" for its excellent braking on wet and dry payment and aquaplaning performance.

Positive recognition was also received from China. According to the magazine "Auto news," the Pirelli Cinturato P7 is "The best balanced tyre of the year." The Cinturato P7 stood out for its road hold, stability, tread pattern optimised to reduce its noise level and the low-carbon emissions production process. Pirelli was considered the best brand on the Chinese spare parts market. This was the finding made by the China Automobile Aftermarket Summit, the forum that is held in Beijing at the end of April, and promoted by the prestigious magazine "Motor Trend."

Twenty-seven tyre brands competed for the prize. They were reviewed by industry experts attending the meeting, who named Pirelli the "recommended brand" for 2010. For the fifth year in a row, Pirelli won the "Best Tuning Cars & Best Brands 2010" competition, the most popular amongst readers of Auto Illustrierte (AI), a prestigious independent car magazine published in Switzerland. Pirelli was proclaimed the best tyre brand of the year by over 1,600 readers.

For the third consecutive year, Pirelli has been rewarded by the readers of SportAuto, the authoritative German magazine for automotive enthusiasts. In response to the survey of SportAuto readers, Pirelli was especially appreciated in the sportsmanship category, for the score it achieved in the areas of "stability in curves," "high-speed safety" and "excellent braking performance." Pirelli also won in the "emotionality" category on the basis of how readers voted in the "I like the brand" and "sport look" areas.

In 2010, Pirelli also consolidated its collaboration with the Turin Polytechnic as part of a project partly funded by the Region of Piedmont, with the development of several important technologies for the Cyber Tyre, the application for several patents to protect the original solutions discovered, and the continuation of projects connected with "Next MIRS" and development of a new technology based on the production of high-performance compounds ("PTSM"). Various patent applications are being prepared on the basis of this collaboration. The innovations resulting from this joint effort are also being implemented at the New Industrial Centre in Settimo Torinese, one of the most modern and efficient tyre manufacturing plants in the world.

Pirelli's collaboration with the academic world also involves the University of Milan - Bicocca. Once again in 2010, Pirelli funded research doctorates in the School of Science, through the Corimav (Consorzio ricerca materiali avanzati – advanced materials research consortium). In the car tyre area, Pirelli research and development activity in 2010 turned out new green products like the Scorpion Verde, the first high-performance ecological tyre for SUV and crossover vehicles realised as part of the corporate Green Performance strategy.

Pirelli maintains close relationships with many of the world's leading carmakers, for the purpose of supplying original equipment tyres. They are also fundamental to the development of new products and implementation of new technologies.

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In 2010, Pirelli received the following final approval for use as original equipment on the following makes of car, among others: Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale, Lamborghini New Murcielago, McLaren MP4-12C, Porsche Cayenne, Aston Martin One-77, BMW M3 and X3, Daimler GLK and CLS, Audi A8 and A7, Chrysler-Fiat 500 USA, Volkswagen Touareg, Phaeton and Scirocco. The new Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale debuted at the Paris Motor Show. This was the first car to be fully equipped with Pirelli PZero Corsa tyres, which were specifically developed and made using the new Next MIRS process.
The new 2011 SMS Mustang 302, from the Signature line designed by Steve Saleen, will be equipped with new, exclusive Pirelli PZero tyres.
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Another example of avant-garde technology and design is represented by Pagani custom-made cars, which have set two records on the Nürburgring track. In partnership with Pirelli, the Pagani Zonda R set the new record on the Nordschleife circuit at Nürburgring, covering 20.83 km in 6'47" with Pirelli PZero Slick tyres (in the 265/645-19TL, 325/705-20TL sizes).

This time was made possible by the excellent road holding characteristics and ability of Pirelli PZero Slick tyres to transfer all of the car's power to the ground. The tyres themselves were fabricated in Milan on the first prototype Next MIRS line, which represents the state of the art of Pirelli technology dedicated to the manufacture of ultra-high performance and motorsport tyres.

In 2010 Pirelli Tyre's research and development efforts produced important results on the race track, which are the de facto testing grounds for new technological solutions underconditions where vehicles are pushed to their limits.
Pirelli will supply the tyres of the Formula 1 World Championship during the threeyear period 2011-2013. The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile), the teams, represented by FOTA (Formula One Team Association), and the Formula 1 organisation, represented by FOM (Formula One Management), chose Pirelli as their exclusive supplier, after approving the solutions proposed by the Italian Group to guarantee technological and qualitative continuity to the racing teams.

Pirelli has also been engaged as exclusive supplier to the GP2 Series World Championship for the three-year period 2011-2013. The Formula 1 supply agreement crowns the long-standing commitment of Pirelli to car racing, dating back to 1907, when the Italian Group won the Peking-Paris Raid.

Pirelli is currently the exclusive supplier to the world's most important car and motorcycle races, such as the GP3 World Championship, the WRC World Rally Championship, the Rolex Sports Car Series in North America, the Superbike World Championship and the Motocross World Championship. It is also involved in over 70 other national and international championships.

The Motorcycle business unit launched the new Supersport Diablo Rosso motorcycle tyre in 2010. Diablo Rosso II is characterised by the new tread pattern designed using the FGD (Functional Groove Design) technology, which enhances regular wear and tear and further increases the contact surface. To improve road hold, Pirelli used the Enhanced Patch Technology (EPT) developed on the basis of Superbike championship experience. The tyre contact area was maximised using ICS (Integrated Contour Shaping) design, which enhances motorcycle road hold and power output and guarantees unprecedented results in terms of stability, performance on wet surfaces and safety on curves.

In April 150 motorcycle racers met at the Zolder track in Belgium, after being invited by Metzeler to test the new Sportec M5 Interact. In October the Feelfree Wintec tyre was presented to the international press at the Pirelli test track at Vizzola Ticino. This is the first tyre designed for using scooters on wet or slippery roads, typical in autumn and winter, while guaranteeing safety and reliability. Scorpion Trail, an innovative set of enduro street radial tyre measurement, was introduced. This was the first of its kind and created on the basis of the long, close collaboration between Pirelli and Ducati, which has used Pirelli tyres as original equipment on all its models since January 1, 2010.

In addition to the activities connected with its core Tyre business, the Group has also invested in brand support activities, like PZero. Solutions have been studied even in the apparel sector, to improve shoe comfort and performance while following fashion trends. All materials used have been classified to establish a correlation between material characteristics and product performance. Testing procedures have also been implemented at PZero suppliers to monitor compliance with REACH regulatory requirements governing the potential toxicity of any materials we supply.

In the photovoltaic sector, work continued on the design and construction of prototype solar trackers for conventional photovoltaic modules. The complete prototypes, which feature innovative designs and large dimensions, have a total capacity of about 4 kWp and guarantee up to 40% more energy output than fixed modules and the photovoltaic solar concentration project, which guarantees extremely high performance in terms of efficiency, in addition to the possibility of major reductions in component and process costs.