Penang the hub of three out of seven global R&D operations
Believes CREST will eventually spawn an ecosystem of engineers
DON’T get B.C. Ooi (pic) wrong when he declares that his mode of operations is “to hunt them down and hire them.” He is not an aggressive man. Rather, the senior vice president of Global Operations at Avago Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd is just giving a vivid analogy of how much his company thirsts for technologists.
Already with a global portfolio of patents and Intellectual Property (IP) rights, the company’s operations in Penang are just very “brain-power intensive” and Ooi needs all the talent he can lay his hands on.
“If there were 40 PhDs in the right fields, which could be in nanotechnology to chemistry, I would hire them right away,” he says.
Avago, which has joint headquarters in San Jose, California and Singapore, began as the semiconductor products division of Hewlett-Packard and later Agilent Technologies, before being spun off.
Ooi says that the research and development (R&D) that goes on at Avago is quite unique and different versus what goes on at other companies.
“What we do does not fit as a jigsaw puzzle piece somewhere. We actually design the R&D from top to bottom. This can be where we design the silicon chip, get it fabricated and conduct all the module testing ourselves,” he says.
Avago in Penang hosts three key R&D centres for the entire company, where it does product development, sets the pricing, runs the marketing and even decides on the P&L (profit and loss). It is interesting to note that there are no expatriates in any of the three R&D centres.
Globally, Avago also spends a double-digit percentage of its US$2.6-billion revenue on R&D. “This affords us a significant competitive advantage,” declares Ooi.
The three R&D centres are the optoelectrical division, which is actually the R&D division of the entire company; the wireless semiconductor division; and the motion control division. No surprise then that Ooi says Avago “absolutely needs Masters and PhD holders – from Day One!”
For Avago, Day One was eight years ago when it was taken over by two private equity firms and spun off from HP-Agilent. But before that, Avago sat under HP’s umbrella – Ooi says that even as far back as 45 years ago, there was a need for highly skilled, highly trained engineers.
Just to backtrack a bit, Avago Technologies is a leading designer, developer and global supplier of a broad range of analogue, mixed signal and optoelectronics components and subsystems. Backed by an extensive portfolio of IP including approximately 4,200 patents and pending applications, Avago products serve three primary target markets: Wireless communications, wired infrastructure and industrial.
Impact of CREST
Ooi has a very personal involvement with Collaborative Research in Engineering, Science and Technology or CREST. “We have really pushed this idea from the beginning: That it must be industry- and not government-led,” he says.
He believes that the ongoing development of CREST and the initiatives it is driving will eventually spawn an ecosystem of engineers that can eventually become tomorrow’s small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
“But all this is at a very early stage and everyone is working very hard to make things happen. We will only count success when we achieve real and tangible results via the projects we are driving. That is the battle cry of industry here in Penang,” he says.
Together with the CREST initiative, Ooi strongly believes that Malaysia must create a thriving venture capital ecosystem for the Electronics and Electrical (E&E) sector.
“For Malaysia to rise and develop into a high-income economy and to attract back its talent from overseas, our young must see a bright future for themselves here, where they can develop their ideas and companies into world-beaters and where they will have access to a robust funding environment too,” he adds.
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