Microsoft in major European R&D drive – spends US$600m pa on R&D

2 Oct 2008

Microsoft is to establish three centres of excellence in Paris, London and Munich to support the 40 other R&D operations the company has deployed elsewhere in Europe, on which the company spends US$600m a year in R&D.

During a whistle-top tour of Europe, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer (pictured) said the new operations will focus on innovation in enterprise search.

The new European Search Technology Centre composed of the three centres of excellence will be a key asset to the other company R&D-related facilities already operating in Europe.

The aim, Microsoft said, is to tap into local expertise and fuel local innovation with job opportunities that will help re-invent the European consumer’s online and search experience. By increasing its existing investments and tapping into the best and brightest engineers in Europe, Microsoft expects to foster growth and innovation for both the partner community and the European knowledge economy.

The Search Technology Centre announced today will join the line-up of more than 40 R&D and Microsoft Innovation Centres, including Microsoft’s international research lab in Cambridge, UK; the development centres in Dublin, Ireland; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Oslo, Norway; and the company’s 2,000 researchers and engineers already in Europe.

The Search Technology Centre will be led by Jordi Ribas, who previously headed up the Microsoft Connected TV business group.

The investment follows other recent regional search investments including the purchases of UK-based local search and mapping specialist Multimap, German-based price comparison site Ciao and Norwegian enterprise search technology company FAST.

Microsoft’s online services in Europe will be further supported by the completion of the US$500m European Data Centre in Dublin.

“To compete in a global, innovation-driven economy, we need to draw on the world’s smartest, most creative minds. Increasingly, we are finding the talent we need here in Europe,” Ballmer explained.

“To tap into that talent, we’ve invested in R&D across the region and today, Europe is second only to the US in the number of engineers and researchers we have working on creating innovative products and services.

“The Search Technology Centre is an important step forward in our long-term strategy to invest in local development of search technology in Europe.

“We believe search is still in its infancy. Developers at the Search Technology Centre will play a key role in helping us redefine search as they create new search products and services for consumers and advertisers here in Europe and around the world,” Ballmer added.

The opening of the European Search Technology Centre is complemented by other investments Microsoft is making in Europe across R&D, online services and in the advertising business.

Every year, Microsoft invests more than US$600m in R&D in Europe, and this investment is growing.

“The public sector can make a real contribution, but only in partnership with the private sector. That’s why I am delighted to welcome Microsoft’s decision to open new R&D facilities in three member states,” said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

“For such a key global player as Microsoft to increase its R&D investments so substantially is a real vote of confidence in Europe and in European research excellence.”

Microsoft’s Live Search currently serves approximately two billion worldwide queries per month.

“We’ve just scratched the surface in terms of what can be done in search,” said John Mangelaars, vice-president of Consumer and Online at Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“Our aim is to provide people with a richer, more personal search experience that helps them complete their search tasks faster, across PC and mobile, using more interactive tools such as images, video and location-based services, and by doing so create a more effective platform for our advertisers and partners.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years