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Cynthia Flanigan

Director, Vehicle Research & Technology, Ford Motor Company

Cynthia Flanigan

Dr. Cynthia Flanigan is the Director of Vehicle Research and Technology (VR&T) within Ford Research and Advanced Engineering (R&A). In this capacity, she leads a global team of researchers to develop products over a broad technical portfolio including advanced interiors, exteriors and safety features, architectural design and chassis systems, additive manufacturing for design, materials and processing methods, novel materials, manufacturing technologies, and analytical tool development. The team addresses fundamental challenges of innovating new solutions and materials, anticipating future customer needs, and delivering technologies that meet core vehicle performance/cost requirements as well as key systems to support autonomy and mobility.

During her 20 years with the company, Cynthia has led research projects in a variety of polymer-based applications, including tires, composites, and polyurethane foams. Her technical work on developing biomaterials, such as soy based polyurethane foam, led to implementation on seating for all Ford vehicles built within North America. Cynthia has received several key awards such as the R&D100, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International Environmental Excellence in Transportation Award, the Henry Ford Technology Award (HFTA), and several Society of Plastic Engineers (SPE) Automotive awards. In 2020, she received recognition as one of the 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry by Automotive News, and in 2019, was featured in the Ford Women’s Power Suit campaign including faux cover on Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Cynthia also received recognition as one of the Automotive News’ Rising Stars in the Automotive Industry in 2017.

Dr. Flanigan has been awarded eight U.S. patents and two international patents for bio-product and elastomers discoveries, has published over 35 external publications, and co-authored two book chapters. Within Ford, Cynthia is actively engaged in mentoring and recruitment for the STEM field. She serves as a co-mentor for the Women of Ford-R&A Mentoring Circle and is the lead recruiter for Product Development for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) including sponsoring hackathons and technical seminars. Cynthia has had an opportunity to serve on Product Development Leadership Program (PDLP) Advisory Committee, HFTA Committee, and Mustang Council. In 2020, she co-sponsored the Women of Ford-R&A chapter and serves as mentor for Women of Ford programs. She recently served four years as the Chair and Co-Chair for the Industrial Advisory Board of CenTire, a tire research center located at Virginia Tech., and Board Member for SPE Automotive Division. Cynthia received Materials Science and Engineering degrees of B.S. from M.I.T. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

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