Sun Microsystems has started to increase key technology development work in the mainland, more than a year after establishing a research base in Beijing. Gong Li, general manager of the Sun China Engineering and Research Institute, said its operations were being focused on research and development projects geared for the worldwide market. 'Innovation has always been the primary driver for Sun,' he said, adding that the institute was unlike laboratories set up by other firms. 'Other companies' labs tend to do Chinese versions of their products for the Chinese market - R&D that is more like academic research, or testing, and as such that is peripheral to their company's core competence.' The institute is working on Sun's Solaris operating system and Java software platforms. Sun executives also expect the institute to help strengthen ties with Chinese software companies while meeting local market demands. 'We have expanded to about 8,000 square metres of office space and we look forward to expanding our staff from 200 to over 300 in the very near future,' Mr Gong said. Established in July 2001 with 60 engineers, the institute consolidated Sun's previous research and development activities in the mainland. During his visit to Beijing earlier this year, Sun chief executive Scott McNealy praised China for being economically active. 'This is where the action is,' he said, pointing out that Sun was conducting plenty of engineering, service and support activities in the mainland. 'This is a place where we can add value.' Mr Gong said only about 10 per cent of the Beijing lab's work had to do with product localisation. 'The really great thing about Sun is that research is focused on disruptive innovation,' said Andy Lark, Sun's vice-president for global communications and marketing, referring to the company's write once, run anywhere Java programming technology. 'This starts at the top, where research is liberated to look ahead on behalf of our customers and drive the innovations that will change the shape of computing. This means that Sun can attract the best people because they know they will have the freedom to get ahead of where customers are today.' Mr Gong, meanwhile, denied recent reports in the Taiwanese media which quoted him as saying that Sun would invest US$50 million in a new research and development lab in Taiwan. 'Sun is quite happy with the way the lab in Beijing is doing and we have no plans for any expansion in the region,' he said. 'Although we have no firm plans to open branches in the region, we continue to look for suitable opportunities for expansion.'