Amid all the disruption and uncertainty created by the coronavirus, there has been one constant: the need for innovation. It’s been essential in navigating the current business environment. It’s also helped to create a competitive advantage for the products and services that are transforming the movement of people and goods.
At Automotive News, we have also had to adjust and innovate in response to COVID-19. Throughout those efforts, we have never wavered in our commitment to serve as a champion for innovation in the automotive industry. It’s something we have been doing for more than 25 years through our PACE Awards for automotive suppliers, and we have no plans to stop now. In fact, our objective is to grow the PACE program in 2021.
Exactly where innovation happens within the auto industry is evolving. Product innovation continues to gain speed, as evidenced this year by the advancements in autonomous and electrified technologies. Some automakers, such as Hyundai, have even announced big bets on flying cars.
But the vehicle is just one realm. Industry 4.0 technologies, for example, are changing everything from the plant floor to customer engagement. Cloud computing, 5G, artificial intelligence and cognitive and advanced analytics are changing how companies operate and transforming how they connect with business partners and consumers.
And it’s all being driven by traditional and nontraditional suppliers alike.

At the same time, what defines an automaker customer is also expanding. It’s not hard to imagine a future where the innovations celebrated by the PACE program reflect supplier partnerships with traditional automakers as well as with “vehicle” makers in other sectors. One example might be the suppliers that will help bring Bell’s Nexus air taxi, unveiled at CES 2019, to market.
In January, we will open applications for the 27th PACE Awards and the second year of the PACEpilot program. We will run concurrent application processes. One will be for suppliers with commercialized innovations — those that have been sold to an automaker. The other will be for suppliers with early-stage, pre-commercialized innovations.
The judging rigor that has served as the bedrock of the PACE Awards will not change. It’s one of the reasons these awards rank among the most prestigious innovation honors in the automotive industry. The judges are looking for truly game-changing innovation and are fiercely independent in their commitment to find it.
PACEpilot, meanwhile, creates opportunity for traditional suppliers to showcase early-stage innovation while allowing nontraditional suppliers and startups to demonstrate how they are helping transform this business.
On behalf of the entire team at Automotive News and more than 20 judges, we invite innovators throughout the automotive and mobility business ecosystem to consider the 2021 PACE program.
Applications will open on Jan. 4, in advance of CES, and close in March. Celebrations of the winners are planned for September during the North American International Auto Show. Visit for more information.
Finally, a thank-you to my predecessor as director of PACE judging, J Ferron. The PACE program has thrived in the 12 years under J’s leadership. His vision, commitment to judging rigor and openness with applicants has resulted in the PACE Awards being one of the most sought-after recognitions in the automotive industry.
Simply put, PACE is better because of J, and one of my priorities is to carry on his legacy.