ABB reorganizes group R&D

ABB, the global power and automation technology group, said Wednesday that it is streamlining its research and development. It intends to focus on technologies that increase productivity and sustainability for utility and industry customers, especially growth areas linked to its broad initiative called industrial information technology, patented as Industrial IT. The shake-up will result in 135 R&D job losses.

At a technology day for specialist media, held at an ABB Group R&D laboratory in D௿½wil, Switzerland, ABB president and CEO J௿½rgen Centerman said, “Our business is focused on helping utilities and industry enhance their productivity and sustainability through power and automation technologies. Our research and development efforts must closely reflect that focus”, Centerman said. “With Industrial IT, we are developing a common architecture allowing customers to link our generic and branch-specific offerings, and third-party products, into more efficient manufacturing and business operations. This is an ambitious effort, which is key to our future.”

Chief technology officer Markus Bayegan said the new R&D strategy entails shifting some research resources in the ABB Group R&D laboratories from mature technologies into Industrial IT and emerging technologies, such as wireless communications in industrial plants, industrial software developments and advanced sensors – aiming to make ABB’s traditional and mature products Industrial IT-compatible.

“As a part of this process, we are creating four global virtual laboratories; Industrial Processes and Automation, Power Technologies, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies and Oil and Gas Technologies,” said Bayegan. “This means linking our researchers up with one another, universities we collaborate with and partner organizations in a fully networked, online environment. It’s a natural step in today’s more open world, with IT providing for efficient communications between researchers and collaborators.”

ABB spent around 3 per cent of revenues, or $700m, on R&D in the year 2000. Some 6000 scientists and technology specialists work in ABB Group R&D laboratories and divisional R&D centres around the world. In Europe, the shift in focus is coupled with a decrease from 760 to 550 scientists in Group R&D labs. In the United States and Asia, Group R&D staffing will grow from 25 to 100 scientists in the new technology areas.

Industrial IT is ABB’s architecture for ensuring that the products, installations and software systems in a factory or an electrical utility grid – to take two examples – are built to a shared information standard, and can communicate as integral parts in an operational platform that allows online optimization in real time. Industrial IT-enabled products range from high- and low-voltage electrical equipment to motors, drives, and sophisticated operations management systems in plants.

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