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Government intervenes to retain talent

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Motorola’s Australian management have staged talks with the Federal Government over ways to keep research teams together following the closure of Motorola Labs in Sydney.

While refusing to give specific details of the plans, Motorola’s Pacific division communications and public affairs director Russell Grimmer confirmed a number of options had been discussed.

“We informed the Federal and State Governments [of the decision] on day one,” Grimmer told Electronics News. “Although they were naturally disappointed about the closure, they came back with suggestions for us on ways to retain some of the engineering talent [in Australia].”

Former Motorola Labs Australia operations manager James Lawrence would neither confirm or deny the Federal Government had suggested the teams could be used in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program. “I’d rather not talk specifics,” Lawrence comments. “There are still some sensitive discussions taking place between various groups.”

Motorola Labs spent nine years putting together research teams for projects including wireless LAN, multimodal and language technology, visual communications, networks, research implementation and digital media collection and management. Teams range in size from from three to fifteen engineers with between three and 30 years experience per person in each team. The labs employed 53 staff before announcing the closure late last year (see Electronics News 4 Dec 03 front cover).

“It would be very desirable [to keep the teams together] because the effort that goes into building a team has already happened, [and] it’d be a real shame to have all those teams disperse,” Lawrence explains. “There have been one or two teams that are talking about doing startups, not necessarily for consultancy but to actually take products to market. While the teams may have been focussing on particular specialities within the labs, they’ve also been working with people in the other labs to develop products that cross a number of different specialties.”

Lawrence says early indications are “encouraging” that the teams will stay together. “We’ve had contact with a few organisations where there is a close match between what they’re working on and the skills of the people we have here. It’s looking like there’s a reasonable chance we might get whole teams staying together, and transferring into new organizations,” Lawrence adds.

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