Taiwan's BenQ wants to strengthen its research and development activities in Asia as part of its push to become a top-tier vendor in a broader number of technologies, the company's chairman said Monday.
In today's competitive consumer electronics market it's difficult to make money unless you're a leading vendor, KY Lee said in an interview. Strong product development is a good way to achieve this, he said.
"We need to develop some unique technologies," said Lee. Some of these technologies can come from affiliated companies like AU Optronics, of which Lee also serves as chairman, and some will have to be developed in-house, he said.
"Every year we try to increase the R&D headcount by a minimum of 15 per cent in Asia and this year we expect to increase more," Lee said.
BenQ spends about four percent of revenue annually on research and development and staff around 4,000 engineers worldwide. Of these about 2,700 are working at its R&D centers in Taiwan and China. The remainder work at sites in Europe, primarily in Germany.
Lee said the company is focusing on Asia because engineers are educated to a high level, can be paid lower wages and are amenable to working late or harder when the business needs to finish an urgent project.
"In Europe you cannot do that, the labor unions will interfere. They will force the companies not to [make their employees] work so much but the Asian people are more flexible," he said.
BenQ is already having some success. In the Asia Pacific region the company counts itself as number three in LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors and projectors but lags in other markets like cell phones. Last year it acquired the cell phone handset business of Siemens and now runs the company out of Germany as BenQ Mobile & Co..
At this week's Computex trade show in Taipei BenQ is unveiling a number of new products include laptops with built-in digital TV tuners, compact projectors, LCD monitors and cell phones. It is also showing a prototype Blu-ray Disc writer drive.
The company isn't doing well in all markets.
"In the US we don't have good growth for many reasons," he said. He attributed a high market entry-barrier as being the biggest reason why BenQ is far from a well-known brand-name in the US and said that until its technology can better compete with other companies in the market it will sit on the sidelines and "play safe."
"The US still leads IT but we find in consumer electronics technology that Asian companies are playing a more and more important role in defining standards," he said. "In the future with a huge population base we believe Asia will have the power to define a new and emerging standard for consumer electronics."