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Samsung plans Silicon Valley innovation centre

Posted: 08 Oct 2012  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Silicon Valley  innovation centres  the Cloud  big data 

According to Young Sohn, Samsung's newly appointed chief strategy officer, Samsung Electronics is planning to open several innovation centres outside South Korea as part of a project to reinvent the company and catch the next wave of business and consumer-driven opportunities.

One of the planned locations for the project will be on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, the centre of California's Silicon Valley. Sohn recently revealed the plan during the International Electronics Forum organised by Future Horizons.

Samsungs newly minted CSO was previously a senior advisor to Silver Lake Partners and prior to that was CEO of start-up Inphi Corp. Sohn serves on the boards of directors of processor IP company ARM Holdings and EUV laser source company Cymer Inc.

Sohn said one of the things his role at Samsung requires is that he looks at how large organisations innovate. He referenced successful examples including Apple, Lockheed with its Skunk Works and Sun Microsystems with Java. One of common characteristics was that relatively small teams had been allowed to innovate away from operational pressures, Sohn said.

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Young Sohn, Samsung's chief strategy officer.

"We're opening an innovation centre in Silicon Valley, away from Korea, away from the mothership. We'll be looking at the Cloud, at big data. We also have a centre in Israel." He added: "We're reaching out to global talent but it is also about culture and business innovation."

Part of Sohn's talk to assembled executives here made the observation that the Cloud – where data and applications are hosted in large datacenters – is already changing the hierarchy of major IT companies and that even bigger changes are set to come in the next five years.

"Companies such as Facebook and Google are designing their own hardware, partly because they can and partly because their needs are different," said Sohn, indicating that this is creating an opportunity in microserver architecture. "Enterprise computing was driven by the traditional hierarchy of companies; IBM, Dell and so on. Now there is a Cloud-driven micro-architecture, microserver, which we think will be ARM-based.

At the heart of Silicon Valley
Another theme that is developing at the conference is that technology innovation is no longer enough to bring success. It has become necessary to innovate at the business model level as well.

Sohn, declined to say how many people Samsung would employ at the Silicon Valley innovation centre. "Budget is not an issue but it is not something that depends on scale."

Overall Samsung expects to employ several thousand engineers in Silicon Valley by 2020, but only a small percentage of these would be in the innovation centre. "It's not just looking at technology, it's looking at business models, collaborations and ecosystems.

Sohn argued that this sort of work could not be done at Samsung's traditional locations which were focused on manufacturing excellence. Sohn said that business model innovation still tends to originate in the United States and a few other locations around the world.

"We're putting it in Sand Hill Road. That's making a statement," said Sohn. Sand Hill Road is well known for its concentration of venture capital companies. Samsung already has an innovation centre in Israel Sohn said. He also said that Cambridge in England could be a suitable location. Samsung now has about 300 staff in Cambridge through the acquisition of the handset connectivity/location development operation of CSR plc.

In terms of the total number of Samsung innovation centres around the world Sohn estimated it could be as few five. "There are not that many places around the world where truly innovative thinking is going on," he said.

- Peter Clarke
  EE Times





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