picochip.jpgPicoChip,
a small UK semiconductor design company, joins the growing list of
western tech firms strengthening their R&D presence in China.

The VC-backed company is making a big bet on China where it has had
a presence since 2003. First, it operated through a JV, then it set up
its own sales and engineering offices, in Beijing and Shenzhen,
respectively.

The latest stage is a full-blown development centre in Bejing,
which should allow the company to get a better understanding of local
needs and also home-grown wireless standards like TD-SCDMA, China's
rival 3G cellular technology.

The new Bejing centre complements PicoChip's other development site
back home in Bath, UK. Guillaume d'Eyssautier, president and CEO of
picoChip, said:

This is a significant step for us: as our business grows worldwide,
we are growing our development strength. It is no coincidence that
China was the site of our first external development operation; this
expansion takes us a step further in our commitment to Chinese
technology and to the Chinese market – the world's most significant for
wireless. This is especially timely with the approaching launch of
TD-SCDMA services. “

PicoChip makes software-defined radio (SDR) solutions, a relatively
new idea that seeks to implement some of the functions of
next-generation wireless technologies using software instead of having
to “hard-wire” them into silicon. The aim is to improve flexibility,
save costs and cut the time needed to develop new wireless chips.

Perhaps the best proof of the importance of China to picoChip is its website, which is published in just two languages, English and Mandarin.

PicoChip is the latest in the list of western technology firms
expanding their R&D facilities in China. For large companies, the
move makes a lot of sense as it enables them to tap into a new pool of
cheap scientific and technical talent to support global research
efforts. It also means that they can develop products specifically for
the Chinese market.

In “strategic” technologies such as wireless or semiconductors, a
local R&D presence is becoming essential for western firms as it
enables them to keep a close eye on Chinese technology standards and
research projects — picoChip is a good example of this.

But having a China-based R&D centre also conveys powerful
political message. It shows the western company no longer sees China as
simply a low-cost manufacturing base for products that are designed and
developed in the west.


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