Ailing smartphone maker BlackBerry this week sold its R&D lab in Bochum, Germany to Volkswagen.

The German car maker said its newly-created Infotainment division will use the facility as the focal point for research into connected car services.

"Connectivity will be a key feature of the car of the future. Many customers are expecting connected vehicles of a new dimension in terms of convenience and road safety," said Heinz-Jakob Neußer, board member representing Volkswagen's development division, in a statement on Tuesday.

"In order to be able to meet these challenges it is necessary for us to broaden and expand our options through additional know-how," he said.

BlackBerry opened its Bochum R&D lab in 2008 at a cost of €28 million. It was the company's first research centre to be based outside its home market of Canada. BlackBerry, and in particular market leader at the time Nokia, were starting to feel the heat from Apple's iPhone. In fact, Nokia was just finalising a deal to close its manufacturing plant in Bochum and move production to Romania when BlackBerry announced plans to set up there.

More recently, under the leadership of CEO John Chen, BlackBerry has been reviewing its operations as it refocuses on enterprise services and low-cost devices for emerging markets. It represents a significant departure from Chen's predecessor Thorsten Heins, who tried to stimulate new growth at BlackBerry by pitching its BB10 operating system as a suitable platform for a whole range of connectivity services, including for the automotive sector.