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U.S. Innovation Not Hurt by Expanding Foreign Research

Microsoft exec says worldwide operations complement U.S. work

By John Ribiero
January 23, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Innovation has always been a global endeavor, and Microsoft Corp. works hard to take advantage of technical talent throughout the world, says Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, the company's research and development arm. Rashid was in Bangalore last week for a research conference hosted by his unit's Indian lab and spoke to IDG News Service about Microsoft's research focus, the globalization of R&D and its effect on the state of innovation in the U.S.

Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research
Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research
Is the spread of offshore research operations blunting innovation in the U.S.? Innovation has always been a global enterprise. If you look at the field of computer science, even within the U.S. about half of all Ph.D.s are given to people that were not born in the U.S. Innovation has always been a global enterprise, and I just see that continuing.
What is the effect on U.S. innovation of those migrant Ph.D.s moving back to their home countries to start new businesses or join foreign research operations? I don't tend to think of things that way. I look at it and [ask] how as a global community can we move the state of the art forward. I am trying to hire the best people I can, and if that means creating labs in other parts of the world, that is what I do. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about how many people I have here or there. If I can hire great people in India, I am going to hire great people in India. If I can hire great people in China, I am going to hire people in China. If I can hire great people in the U.S., I am going to hire great people in the U.S.
Do multinational companies like Microsoft face pressure to create research groups in various countries to help in building localized products? There is no pressure to do that. The reason we start research labs in different parts of the world is because we are trying to attract smart people. The first goal is to move to where the talent is and hire the best people we can.
What areas of research is Microsoft focusing on today? We do research in more than 55 different areas. We do work in computer vision, in image editing, graphics and 3-D imagery. We also do work in software engineering technologies, which are of course critical to Microsoft. We also do work, for example, in AIDS research. We are not just doing core


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