Motorola positive about building local R&D facility

Motorola has held 'very positive' meetings with Enterprise and Commerce Minister Max Bradford about establishing a possible multimillion-dollar research and development facility in Auckland or Christchurch.

Motorola has held "very positive" meetings with Enterprise and Commerce Minister Max Bradford about establishing a possible multimillion-dollar research and development facility in Auckland or Christchurch.

Ron Nissen, vice-president for Motorola Pacific's, visited New Zealand at the end of July to investigate possible sites for Motorola's third Australasian software development facility. Prior to his visit, Nissen said he was concerned about New Zealand's commitment to the information economy and the availability of suitably trained graduates.

However, he says "it was a very positive meeting and we got good information on the numbers of skilled people coming from your universities".

The site would employ around 200 staff initially and could possibly grow to 400. It would probably be built in Auckland and Christchurch, because although "we want to build strong relationships with all the universities, Auckland or Canterbury would be the [most useful]", says Nissen.

At an investment of about $100,000 a head, a year, the investment would be considerable and he says the decision will come down to three things: the availability of skilled resources in the long and short term, the overall cost of the exercise (principally salaries and facilities) and relationships with local customers. Staff turnover is also a major consideration, "because we take people on and do quite extensive training. High turnover can have a huge impact."

A shortage of skilled staff would be the most likely problem in New Zealand, where academics have been warning of a skills shortage and brain drain reducing New Zealand's competitiveness in the "knowledge economy". However, New Zealand's lower costs may work in its favour. Motorola's largest local customer is Telecom New Zealand.

A decision will be made by the end of the year, says Nissen, and the facility will open by the end of 2000.

The two current Australasian sites, in Adelaide and Sydney, do basic software development for Motorola products - chips for semiconductors and mobile phones - and also customise products for the local market. "As we look to the future and the whole idea of 'a market of one'," says Nissen, "we want to be able to customise to suit individual customers." Local development sites are therefore necessary.

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