Got Engineers?

Oakland County Does — With the Patents to Prove It

Vigneswaran Appia, David Sloss and Vanessa Roy check pH levels in water at Somnio Global. Photos by Jake Turskey

Steve Annear moved from Australia to Oakland County four years ago after learning about Somnio Global.

The Novi-based scientific accelerator is developing technologies in water decontamination, air purification and other applications that help solve a range of problems. Annear was inspired and wanted to be part of the work.

“The passion for solving global problems through innovation was, in my experience, very unique,” says Annear, the company’s vice president.

Somnio Global has amassed more than a dozen patents, including solid-state batteries and lightweight brake rotors, to name a few, for the auto industry and for medical applications that eliminate the need to refrigerate vaccines and insulin. Like Annear, other engineers are drawn to Somnio for its global problemsolving impact — and location.

Somnio Global is among many engineering companies and staffing firms based in Oakland County.

“We have been pleased with our decision to locate here,” Annear says, “and are looking forward to an exciting period of further growth and success.”

TOP FOR ENGINEERS

Oakland County has a strong legacy of engineering achievement and remains poised to continue on that path, thanks to many engineering graduates who are ready to discover the next big thing.

“The top two reasons for companies to locate to any state are access to the workforce and the cost of doing business,” says Louay M. Chamra, dean and professor at Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Oakland County has always been a leader in these categories …Its workforce is one of the biggest competitive advantages, which means that engineering firms will have access to find the talent they need to grow.”

Tel Ganesan, founder and chairman of Kyyba Inc., a Farmington Hills recruiting and staffing firm, has seen that firsthand.

“Metro Detroit has the highest concentration of engineering graduates of anywhere in the United States,” he says. “They are drawn to Oakland County for its high concentration of engineering firms and university engineering programs. Nowhere else has that.”

Raghavender Tummala, Arun Chitikela and William Walker at Somnio Global.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Oakland County innovators received 20,629 patents from 2000 to 2015, with 5,235 granted between 2013-2015. In Macomb County, the average is 253 per year; in Wayne County, it’s 797. Nationwide, Oakland County is in the top 10 for highest number of patents between 2000 and 2015.

THE RIGHT PLACE

New York-based Teledyne LeCroy opened its automotive solutions group in Farmington Hills in 2016 and has enjoyed its proximity to the area’s automotive companies and suppliers. The office does engineering work for the connected car — electrical embedded systems, cybersecurity and wired and wireless systems such as Bluetooth. The company also hosts seminars and training sessions for engineers.

“This is a new venture for us, but we’ve been very successful and we’ve grown exponentially,” says Bill Johnson, the company’s marketing director. “We are in the right area, and this is the right market.”

Cedric Ballarin, a vice president with Faurecia’s automotive seating business group in Auburn Hills, says Oakland County is attractive for its large talent pool, infrastructure, universities and wide variety of engineering-based companies.

“Oakland County is a cluster of many different companies with some form of engineering capacity,” he says. “It’s quite impressive. The quality of life in Oakland County is also a plus — it’s something we promote when we recruit people.”

Simply put, Oakland County is the entire package.

“This is a pro-business climate,” Ballarin says. “It’s a success area, a dynamic area, that is prepared for the next technological revolution.”

This article originally appeared in the 2019 edition of Oakland County Prosper magazine.