Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi have together launched a new venture capital fund, Alliance Ventures, which plans to invest up to $1bn (£0.74bn) over the next five years.
The firm, which is set to become the largest corporate venture capital fund in the automotive industry, expects to plough up to $200m into startups and innovation partnerships in its first year. Renault and Nissan will each provide 40 per cent of the capital, while Mitsubishi Motors will add the other 20 per cent.
It has already made its first deal, in US battery technology company Ionic Materials. As well as acquiring part of the company, Alliance has agreed a research and development partnership with Ionic – which could help drive innovation in electric cars.
By the end of 2022, the alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi plan to launch 12 pure electric models, bring to market 40 vehicles with autonomous drive technology and develop robo-vehicle ride-hailing services.
"Our open innovation approach will allow us to invest and collaborate with start-up companies and technology entrepreneurs, who will benefit from the global scale of the Alliance," said Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi's chairman and chief executive Carlos Ghosn.
The three car manufacturing businesses together sold 10m vehicles last year, through 10 separate brands. With the new fund, they intend to generate a "fair financial return".
The fund is also a key part of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi's Alliance 2022, which aims to double the "annualised synergies" – or how much the companies can save by working together – to more than €10bn (£8.9bn) by the end of 2022.
The firms hope their combined revenues will hit €240bn, while annual unit sales will exceed 14m.
Alliance Ventures will be led by Francois Dossa, who accumulated more than 20 years' experience in investment banking at firms such as Societe Generale before becoming the chief executive of Nissan Brazil. The group will be recruiting more venture capital experts.