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Today, India is looked at as one of the cheapest R&D destinations with highly talented engineers. The setting up of an R&D base by an increasing number of MNCs is a testimony to this fact. These R&D setups either serve the local market or help the parent company deliver new generation of products faster to the global market. For instance, one of the primary research areas for Philips Lighting India centre is to develop products that can suit Indian operating conditions.

In particular, embedded systems related work is growing fast and maturing to focus on enabling value-added devices. Almost every major international firmfrom Intel to Texas Instruments (TI) has its R&D or design lab for microprocessors in India. Telecom, consumer electronics, automation and automotive are the top verticals with MNC R&D base in India.

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“Automotive, healthcare and power are driving the demand in the semiconductor industry and we are well positioned to take advantage of the growing market by investing in R&D. The introduction of latest technologies will help us differentiate from our competitors,” says Guruswamy Ganesh, vice president and country manager, Freescale Semiconductor India.

Infineon India ontributes to almost every major automotive or smartcard product launched globally. The centre has aggressive plans for coming years. “As the market in India develops, the local R&D is expected to work closely with the marketing and sales teams to increase competitiveness of Infineon solutions for local markets. Existing engineering activities will be expanded further by initiating a new competence centre for power electronics. Further, engineering of applications over Infinon products specificto Indian market is being considered,” informs Vinay Shenoy, managing director, Infinen Technology India.

The immense intellectual power that India possesses, makes it a perfect destination for carrying out research activities from the standpoint of technology and innovation.

Samsung employs 5500 researchers in India and plans to hire 1100 more next year. The Korean giant has two research centres in India, which work for its global projects.

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Samsung’s story clearly indicates that electronics world has traction for the Indian talent. The nation is witnessing a talent war for engineers and technical professionals.

“Infineon Inia’s main incentive for setting up operations in India was the country’s abundance of highly skilled professionals in the areas of hardware and software development and R&D. This is now supplemented by the company’s attraction to the Indian semiconductor market. According to industry analysts, India’s markets for automotive and industrial electronics and smart cards are estimated to reach two billion US dollars by 2015,” informs Shenoy.

According to a recent study by management consultancy Zinnov, hiring in R&D domain is expected to grow by 15 per cent this fiscal.The study suggests that operating cost of R&D centres in India has gone up by 9 per cent. Despite this, operating cost in India is still 25 per cent lower than in China.

Chandramouli C.S., management consulting director, Zinnov, said, “The increase in operating cost, beginning last year, will not dampen the investment mood. MNCs are looking at ramping up operations and continue to invest in value creation and innovation in India.”

Interestingly, Tier-II locations in India are emerging fast and offer up to 40-50 per cent savings on cost. “The MNCs in India have started setting up their secondary R&D centres for noncore work in tier-II locations in India such as Madurai, Chandigarh, Baroda, Coimbatore and Bhubaneswar as these are 40 to 50 per cent more cost-effective than Tier-I locations such as Bengaluru, Pune or Chennai,” according to Chandramouli.

Looking ahead, we can expect a 10 to 15 per cent growth in the next couple of years in R&D in India, with growth mostly in engineering and embedded systems. The new companies that are being established were initially into sustenance and are now focussing more on innovation and leadership, which is completely different from what they actually do.

Of course, there are some roadblocks too that India needs to overcome in order to enjoy a smooth ride as an R&D hub.

Companies like Samsung, Intel and AMD are facing talent crunch in their R&D centres in India, making them turn towards Indian universities for talent.

“There is surely a talent crunch when it comes to candidates with PhDs. One of the other challenges that we face is that as a technology company we need to build the depth in terms of engineers’ skillsets. Since there is a strong service mindset in people, after working for a year or so sometimes they start feeling nervous doing the same thing and express the desire to change jobs. That mindset needs to change, as in technology and R&D depth is very critical and important,” says Jitendra Chaddah, director, Intel India Strategic Development & Operations.

Intel’s rival, the California based $6.49-billion AMD Inc., is also facing a talent crunch in its design centres in Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

MNC R&D in India: A Quick Look

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1. Meant to serve either the global market or develop products suited for the Indian market
2. Operating cost in India 25 per cent lower than in China
3. Tier-II locations like Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar emerging fast by offering up to 40-50 per cent savings on cost
4. Embedded systems related work growing fast
5. Automotive, healthcare, power and security driving the demand in semiconductors
6. Local advantages: Availability of highly skilled professionals in hardware and software, lower operating cost and growing Indian market
7. Local deterrents: Talent crunch, lack of adequate physical infrastructure, not-soencouraging industry-academia interface
8. Suggestions:
• Engineering institutes in India should impart postgraduate education in technologies relevant for the India market, like energy efficiency, automotive safety and security

• The government should provide encouraging tax incentives to help companies grow their R&D labs here

Kiranmai Pendyala, head-HR, AMD India, says, “We are acquiring senior professionals from various markets like Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Singapore and the US. Attrition has increased in 2010-11 as the market is ripe and growth opportunities exist in the ecosystem. Hiring cost has definitel increased, given the market dynamics.”

Lack of adequate physical infrastructure (lack of regular power supply, poor roads) defiitely poses a challenge to operate smoothly in India and also in faster growth of already existing units.

“A lot needs to be done in the area of industry and academia interface to ensure that the technologies that students learn in the class are the latest that the industry is working on. While this has already started to a great extent, penetration needs to take place across the universities in India. Also, the R&Ds happening in the country are working towards providing solutions for the global market while the demand for unique products to serve India’s growing market is increasing. It is important that R&D players invest for home-grown solutions as well, which can range from solar energy for generating power to cost-effective connectivity solutions,” says Guruswamy.

“To enhance the R&D eco-system, engineering institutes should emphasise postgraduate education in technologies relevant for the Indian market; for example, energy efficiency, automotive safet and security. This will enable more relevant collaboration between the industry and academia,” suggests Shenoy.

“Most important of all is the support from the government to leverage this strength and continue to provide all help in encouraging more growth by giving tax incentives to help companies grow their R&D labs here, which benefits Indi immensely,” adds Guruswamy.

10 R&D majors in India

1. Delta India Electronics
Delta India has state-of-the-art R&D centres located in Gurgaon and Bengaluru. Besides core product area and applications, it is working on complete solutions for smart-grid applications and automotive applications. In core product area and applications, it is constantly enhancing the efficiency rate of power converters and infrastructure monitoring solutions for telecom sites.

Delta offers highly customised products and R&D facilities in India work on indigenisation of UPS and display solution products suited to India and SAARC customer requirements and environment. Developing custom power supply for storage and network equipment is another core area for Delta India’s R&D activity.

2. John F. Welch Technology Centre
GE’s John F. Welch Technology Centre (JFWTC) in Bengaluru is a multi-disciplinary R&D centre accelerating the company’s delivery of advanced technology to its global customers. The centre collaborates with GE’s three other R&D facilities that form the GE Global Research team to conduct research, development and engineering activities for all of GE’s diverse businesses worldwide.

Inaugurated on Sept 17, 2000, the centre is home to state-of-the-art laboratories working in the areas of mechanical engineering, electronic and electrical system technology, ceramics and metallurgy, catalysis and advanced chemistry, chemical engineering and process, polymer science and new synthetic materials, process modeling and simulation, power electronics and analysis technologies.

The centre has filed for more than 185 patents for R&D activities in Bengaluru and been granted twelve to date. In addition to GE’s global research activities, JFWTC is also home to technology teams from other GE organisations including GE Advanced Materials, GE Consumer & Industrial, GE Energy, GE Transportation and GE Healthcare.

“The centre in Bengaluru does R&D for the entire spectrum of GE products. At this centre, we are working on CdTe technology for solar cells, which is being developed globally,” informs Dr Mano Manoharan, general manager, operations, GE Global Research, and technology leader, manufacturing and materials, John F. Welch Technology Center.

3. Freescale Semiconductor India
Freescale Semiconductor designs and manufactures embedded processing technologies for automotive, consumer, industrial and networking markets and its India design centres build system-on-chips for these markets along with creation of digital and mixed-signal IPs and an impressive portfolio of low-tier to high-tier processor core platforms.

Freescale Semiconductor has R&D centres in Noida, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, employing more than a thousand highly skilled professionals who play a significant part in delivering innovative products. Freescale India has been leading many important projects. It contributed immensely to the 360-degree surround-view parking assistance system launched recently, and also to small cell development for femto and pico base stations in the networking market.

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4. Infineon India
Infineon India has a well established global R&D centre set up in Bengaluru. The company is a global semiconductor innovator in energy efficiency, mobility and security, employing around 280 professionals in India. Infineon’s business spans from automotive electronics semiconductor solutions for power train and safety in two- and four-wheel vehicles, and chip card and security solutions for ePassport, citizen cards and drivers’ licences to industrial and multi-market sector solutions for electronic ballasts, power supplies, and solar and wind energy conversion.

The R&D centre plays an essential role in software and hardware development for global products. Software development projects involve all layers from low-level software design to high-level application software and complex configuration software, whereas hardware design involves complex system-on-chip verification and validation and design automation systems (design flow and design libraries).

Infineon India plays a leading role in global automotive software strategy development such as automotive network standards, automotive open system architecture (AUTOSAR), automotive safety and electric vehicle motor control. Smart card operating systems and applications is another major area of R&D at Infineon India.

New chip designs are verified and validated to ensure full and perfect compliance to specification and delivered to the market within tight consumer windows. Parts of complex chip design flows and methodologies that reduce chip development time and ensure first-time right silicon are addressed.

5. Intel India
Intel India is Intel’s largest non-manufacturing site outside of the US and considered a microcosm of Intel with the presence of major business groups. Having started its sales office in 1988 and R&D activities in 1999, Intel India has grown from less than 200 employees in 2000 to over 3000 employees now. A majority of these employees are in R&D. The Intel R&D centre in Bengaluru is spread across three facilities.

Intel India has made significant contributions through its engineering capability in silicon design, validation and systems software to a number of Intel Xeon server products and integrated graphics for clients. It is engaged in a range of software projects in server management, ultra-mobile, graphics, IT applications and factory automation. It also has a dedicated innovation team named Ideas to Reality Group (I2R), started in 2007, focusing on developing Intel architecture based solutions for the emerging markets.

Intel recently announced the availability of Intel Xeon processor E7 family (formerly codenamed Eagleton)—Intel’s first ten-core processor with 30 MB of L3 cache memory and 2.9 billion transistors. Intel India team based in Bengaluru jointly led the design of the Intel Xeon processor E7 family, in collaboration with other teams in the US, Malaysia, Mexico and Costa Rica.

Intel India is working on the design and validation of next-generation server chips, and development of next-generation integrated graphics for clients. It’s also working on the development of system-on-chip platforms for mobile phones. In addition, it is involved in throughput computing research and frugal innovation.

“The work we do here is significant and sizeable; one is looking at solving critical problems which can change Intel products and the other is end-to-end or complete ownership of the platform. India will also have a role to play when it comes to our future success in tablets and phones. Apart from that, we have parallel computing research work being done out of here. A core team of people is doing local market innovation like the Atom-based universal handheld device which has a biometric, printer, GPRS and an integrated smartcard reader,” informs Jitendra Chaddah, director, Intel India Strategic Development & Operations.

6. Nokia
Nokia has three R&D centres in India, one each in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad. The centres are focused on next-generation packet-switched mobile technologies and communication solutions to enhance corporate productivity. While all the three centres are an integral part of Nokia’s global R&D infrastructure and therefore work on global projects, these centres do play a pivotal role in assimilating local flavours from the market and act as a conduit for information to the global product development teams. Currently, Nokia has 1000 people working on various R&D projects.

Of the three centres, the Bengaluru R&D centre is the largest Nokia site in India. It was established in 2001 with the acquisition of Amber Networks. Over the years, it has played a pivotal role in the development of new applications, software platforms and chipsets for high-end Nokia mobile devices. The software platform group works on development of parts of the base services for the platform, application frameworks, user interfaces and test tools. On the chipset side, the work done in India is mainly in the areas of ASIC design, hardware design, integration and verification, protocol software design and integration, speech and video codec design and integration.

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The facility today houses over 1200 employees across all teams.

7. Panasonic
Panasonic has established its first R&D subsidiary in India, the Panasonic Research & Development Center India (PRDCI), in Gurgaon, Haryana. The centre will contribute to the company’s business expansion in the growing market with efficient R&D tailored to local needs. Panasonic has been making a company-wide effort to cultivate its business in India, having enhanced its product lineup and marketing structure here.

The PRDCI, Panasonic’s ninth R&D centre in emerging countries, will help realise an integrated operation of product development, manufacturing and sales with its effective, locally-oriented R&D initiatives. In particular, serving as a technology platform, the centre will promote the technologies and their standardisation that are deemed essential for making inroads into the Indian market through collaboration with local universities and industrial partners, mainly in the areas of energy management and audio-video products as well as new business development.

Panasonic aims to become the No.1 green innovation company in the electronics industry by 2018—the 100th anniversary of its founding. To this end, the company is undergoing a transformation to be a globally-oriented company, focusing on emerging markets such as India, under its Green Transformation 2012 (GT12) management plan covering three years through March 2013.

8. Philips Lighting India
In 2008, Philips inaugurated a global R&D centre for lighting in India. This was its third such unit in the world. The facility, situated in Noida, not only caters to the needs of the Indian market but also the Asia-Pacific, European and North American markets. Philips’ other R&D centres are located at Eindhoven in the Netherlands and in Shanghai, China.

One of the primary research areas for the India centre is to develop products that can tackle high-voltage fluctuations in India. In 2010, the lighting business contributed 57.9 per cent to Philips India’s overall revenue. The main focus of this R&D facility is provide lighting solutions that are customised keeping in mind the India-specific environmental and infrastructural challenges such as voltage fluctuations, energy spikes and intermittent power supply.

“Philips recently developed India’s first consumer LED bulb. This bulb is a significant R&D achievement which was designed at its Noida research facility. Within Philips, it is the fastest innovation globally—from conceptualisation till the actual production,” informs Indranil Goswami, head-Lighting Application Services, Philips Lighting India.

9. Samsung Electronics
Samsung has two software development centres—Samsung India Software Centre (SISC) and Samsung India Software operations unit (SISO) at Noida and Bengaluru, respectively. While the Samsung India Software Centre is developing software solutions for Samsung’s global software requirements for high-end televisions like plasma and LCD TVs and digital media products, SISO is working on major projects for Samsung Electronics in the areas of telecom (wireless terminals and infrastructure), networking, system-on-chip (SoC), digital printing and other multimedia/digital media as well as application software. In addition to working on global R&D projects, SISO is also helping Samsung India’s mobile business by focusing on product customisation for the Indian market. Samsung India currently employs around 2000 employees across its R&D centres at Noida and Bengaluru.

Samsung India is also carrying out hardware R&D at its Noida R&D centre. The focus of the R&D centre is to customise consumer electronics products (flat TVs with Easy View technology) to better meet the needs of Indian consumers.

10. Texas Instruments
In August 1985, Texas Instruments (TI) set up an R&D facility in Bengaluru, becoming the first global technology company to establish its presence in India. Ever since, India has been a great resource for TI for talent, leadership and innovation.

The focus at TI India has consistently been on innovation. The number of patents filed in the US by TI engineers in India is perhaps the highest by any technology company in the country.

TI India has achieved many ‘firsts.’ In 1995, it developed the first processor designed in India for control applications. The TI India R&D centre was extensively involved in developing LoCosto—the industry’s first single-chip solution for wireless handsets.

TI India is deeply involved in developing state-of-the-art solutions for applications like wireless handsets, wireless infrastructure (base stations), video (security and surveillance, IP phones, set-top boxes) and high-performance analogue. Today, there is hardly any chip produced by TI that is not touched by engineers at TI India.

Since 2006, in addition to being a significant and critical R&D centre for TI globally, TI India has increased its focus on the Indian semiconductor market in a big way. The company is working closely with its customers in India in a wide array of sectors such as industrial electronics (UPS, inverters, energy meters, lighting, etc), medical electronics (ultrasound scanners, X-ray machines, ECG machines, MRI scanners, etc), consumer, telecom and automotive.


The author is an executive editor at EFY

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