US-based Agilent Technologies, the world's largest maker of scientific-testing gear, plans to more than double its research and development (R&D) workforce in China in anticipation of robust demand for measuring equipment in the country.
"Our goal is to double our workforce over the next five years in China and have 1,000 R&D engineers here," said Bill Sullivan, president and CEO of Agilent.
Agilent now employs 1,300 people in China, including 400 R&D engineers.
"China is now our second-largest and fastest-growing market in the world," Sullivan said. "We hope to grow faster than the market and remain the No 1 measuring company."
Agilent, a spinoff from Hewlett-Packard, provides instruments in a wide range of areas including electronic and optical tests, measurements, life sciences and chemical analysis.
The firm last week officially opened its China headquarters in Beijing with an investment of 250 million yuan including the Agilent Open Lab & Solution Center and the Life Science & Chemical Analysis Center of Excellence.
The headquarters will combine Agilent's Beijing-based R&D, sales, marketing, technical support and after-sales functions in China.
In February 2006, China issued a blueprint for the development of the science and technology sector in the 2006-20 period. It set a target to increase the ratio of the country's R&D spending to gross domestic product to 2.5 percent by 2020.
Sullivan said the blueprint would trigger big orders for Agilent as it has identified energy, environmental protection, agriculture and food security, information technology and life sciences as the top priorities.
Agilent provides testers to all these sectors. It has already started benefiting from a number of new initiatives by the government such as tightened supervision of food security and environmental pollution.
For instance, chemical analysis orders Agilent won globally, representing approximately 57 percent of bio-analytical measurements, grew 8 percent in 2006 compared to 2005.
"During the year, we continued to derive strength from the food and environmental segments because of increased testing demands from new regulations enacted in Europe and Asia, particularly China and India," the company said in its 2006 financial reports.
"These regulatory changes led to strong demand for our gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry solutions that are used for food and environmental testing."
Its Open Lab & Solution Center is the firm's second open lab for electronic measurements. Agilent Life Science & Chemical Analysis Center of Excellence is the first for Agilent in the field in China. Agilent will also provide the measuring equipment and devices for anti-doping tests at the Beijing Olympics.