GM Taps India For IT And R&D

Leading automaker invests $21 million to set up shop in Bangalore.

In locating its first automotive research laboratory outside of the U.S., General Motors Corp. had several things in mind. The Detroit-based automaker wanted to move the brand closer to the Asia-Pacific region, tap a diverse pool of talent and leverage work being done in Indian universities and national laboratories. "We needed a physical presence in the Asia-Pacific region," says Alan Taub, executive director of the science laboratories for GM research and development. "We weighed the availability in talent and time zones. We chose India for a number of reasons -- everything from cost, security and availability of electricity supply." Working in partnership with GM's central R&D science labs in Warren, Mich., the Indian lab -- which currently employs 15 scientists but expects to increase to 100 in a couple of months -- will conduct new exploratory research in math-based tools and vehicle development, lightweight materials, agile manufacturing processes and automotive electronics and controls systems. The 40,000-square-foot center opened in September of 2003. In addition to work at its research labs in Michigan and India, GM has ongoing projects and collaborations at universities in several countries including Canada, Switzerland, China, Israel, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, South Korea, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom. In India, GM has more than 30 research projects being conducted at universities and national laboratories, including the Collaborative Research Lab at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. "Our global R&D network significantly expands our technical capabilities so that we can respond with creativity and speed and ensure GM's leadership in strategically important technologies," explains Taub. "Asia-Pacific is a key regional growth market, and our science lab in India further enables us to remain the world leader in product innovation." Taub adds, "The [new] research lab in India provides an increased diversity of talent and resources to our global R&D network. We are able to tap into these science-rich societies and involve the world's best technical talent." While the lab is based in India, Taub notes that not all scientists will be from the region. As with its lab in Michigan, GM plans to recruit globally to ensure it has a diverse workforce, which in turn will lead to diverse innovation. One-third of the initial researchers at the Bangalore lab were recruited out of U.S. universities and labs, the other two-thirds are from India. When the lab ramps up to its full capacity, there will be researchers from all over the world working in Bangalore. Why not just build the lab in the U.S.? "We wanted to get a diversity of talent," says Taub. "Once people come to the U.S., they get Americanized really fast. We wanted to get a diversity of ideas."

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