General Electric Co/ (IW 500/6) is opening a research and development center in Paris to work on software design for industrial applications as part of a push to boost sales from information technology.
The "Digital Foundry" will hire 250 people by 2018 to work on its industrial operating system Predix, according to GE.
The center is part of a commitment by the U.S. company to create a net 1,000 jobs in France following its acquisition of Alstom SA’s energy division.
“This is the biggest transformation in the history of the company,” GE Chief Executive officer Jeffrey Immelt said at an event in Paris on June 14. He was speaking on the company’s push into digital products, which are expected to generate $15 billion in revenue by 2020 compared with $6 billion this year.
Alongside manufacturing products including gas turbines, jet engines and oilfield equipment, GE has been expanding its big data business dubbed the Industrial Internet. Last year, it formed a division to oversee its software and analytic operations in a bid to become a top 10 software company by the turn of the decade. The purchase of Alstom’s power-generation operations, which created political waves in France, was aimed at strengthening its presence on energy markets. GE has since said it would cut 6,500 jobs in Europe, including 765 in France.
“GE and France - that’s the long-term partnership,” French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said at the inauguration of the R&D center on Monday evening, while unions and former Alstom employees protested outside to demand a halt to the plan for job cuts.
The new research center near the Paris Opera house will employ data scientists, engineers and web developers who will work on programs including some that can predict machine maintenance and detect issues before they occur, according to GE.
By Ania Nussbaum and Francois de Beaupuy