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Non-IT firms hiring for in-house R&D

By Ravi Menon in Bangalore
May 08, 2009 17:07 IST
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At a time when most IT firms are freezing recruitment, the research and development (R&D) arms of non-IT companies like GE, Chrysler and Volvo are in the ramp-up mode.

For instance, GE Global Research -- the specialised technology development arm of General Electric Company (GE) -- is planning to add up to 150 people on its rolls in Bangalore by end-2009.

A spokesperson attached to GE's Jack Welch Research Center in Bangalore said after the new people join, employee numbers in Bangalore would cross the 4,500-mark. GE's technology product research and development team is currently 3,800-people strong, with an additional 350 people employed in global research.

These jobs require personnel with advanced qualifications in mathematical and computational modelling/forecasting. The head of a leading recruiting firm noted that most of the hirings would commence by the first week of June.

"These units work strictly out of their research requirements, which do not conform to any economic cycle. In fact, it makes sense for MNCs, especially those in the automobile sector, to increase their R&D spends during a slowdown, or a downturn," he said.

"The current slowdown has not really affected our pipeline and orders have been strong," a GE spokesperson said, without citing figures or specific projects. The Bangalore centre has now been put on GE's blue-chip Ecoassessment Center of Excellence network where engineers based here can jointly assess and manage a product's environmental footprint throughout the entire lifecycle along with GE's teams in New York, Shanghai and Munich.

DaimlerChrysler's R&D arm, DaimlerChrysler Research and Technology India (DCRTI), is also expected to add about 150 people to its rolls this year, while Delphi Automotive Systems' Technical Centre in Bangalore is looking at raising its headcount from 80 engineers at present to over 180 by the year-end.

The team at DaimlerChrysler's DCRTI, say analysts, has several feathers in its cap working in areas like mold and engine design, CAE simulation services and crash analysis across the company's automobile range, besides a few third party projects. DCRTI has, over the past few years, been associated with design key components of the US missile programme, notably the development of a terrain mapping system for the Cruise missile.

Swedish automobile giant Volvo's technology centre in Bangalore, which employs around 350-450 people according to industry estimates, will also ramp up by about 50 over the next six months. Volvo's technology centre provides support to the mother company's IT and truck development activities.  

GE, Volvo, DCRTI and Delphi have engaged multi-disciplinary teams comprising scientists and engineers to develop more energy-efficient ways of designing and managing products.  

GE's Bangalore R&D team is fresh from its success in designing crucial components of the GENX turbofan engine commissioned by Boeing for its Dreamliner 787 jet.

In fiscal 2009, a team of 75-100 at the John F Welch Lab in Bangalore applied and developed measurement tools and processes needed to fully assess the environmental impact of the GENX engine. Cost savings up to 10 per cent were realised by reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 5-8 per cent and optimising the engine's combustion rate by 10 per cent.

GE is doubling its level of worldwide investments in clean R&D alone from $700 million in 2005 to more than $1.5 billion by 2010.

Since the initiative was launched in 2005, GE has more than quadrupled its environmental products from 17 to over 80. India-specific R&D investments of GE, Volvo and DCRTI could not be ascertained.

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Ravi Menon in Bangalore
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