THE MAINLAND IS increasingly being regarded by hi-tech multinationals as the place to go for top quality research and development (R&D) work, which explains why communications giant Motorola is in the process of stepping up investment and rapidly expanding its mainland operations. 'We're looking at hiring more than 1,000 people for permanent positions in China this year,' said Gillian Standen-Thomas, Motorola's Asia-Pacific director of talent and human resources. 'China is our most important market in the region and there's tremendous business growth because of that.' According to Ms Standen-Thomas, most of the openings are in R&D, with positions available in both software and mechanical engineering, as well as in engineering management. There will also be vacancies in corporate support functions including sales, marketing, finance and human resources. Motorola entered the mainland market in 1987 and now has one holding company, four wholly owned entities, six joint ventures and 22 branch offices there. By the end of last year, these various operations employed more than 9,000 staff, with total cumulative investment reaching US$3.5 billion. The company has invested US$450 million specifically in research and has more than 1,800 staff in 16 R&D centres in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing and Chengdu. Ms Standen-Thomas said much of the company's growth is in research and engineering because the mainland is now recognised as a centre for competencies. 'In the past, China was seen more as a manufacturing base rather than a hub for engineering, but that is shifting now,' she said. The China R&D teams developed many of the company's best-known mobile phone models, and the new positions will involve working on products which are based on advanced technology.' They will be supporting all our products and services whether in design, software development or 3G, since we are really looking at next generation technology,' Ms Standen-Thomas said. Applications are encouraged in particular from people who are used to working in an international environment. In this respect, the company has previously recruited many candidates from Hong Kong and found that, if they have the necessary formal qualifications, they fit into engineering positions or support functions without a problem. 'We will be looking for people with two years' experience all the way through to senior management. As long as they have Mandarin, I think individuals in Hong Kong can add something with their experience of working with multinational companies. That is a real positive aspect,' she said. Previous experience in China is not a requirement, but openness, flexibility, and the ability to work well within a large organisation are important qualities. Candidates will need to show they are prepared to accept the challenge of living and working outside Hong Kong. It will be necessary to work within a team-based culture, to co-operate closely on different projects, and to see the bigger picture. Recruits will also have to demonstrate their flexibility when working in a dynamic, constantly changing environment. They will be required to switch between projects and types of product, while being able to focus quickly on any new set of objectives. Ms Standen-Thomas said that today a young graduate with no practical work experience in R&D in China could expect a starting salary of 4,000 to 5,000 yuan a month plus transport allowances and a 13th-month payment. That seemed to be the going rate in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. 'If you're looking at someone with eight to 10 years' experience, anything from 11,000 to 20,000 yuan per month is possible,' she said. There was now a degree of competition from Taiwan, but Hong Kong candidates with their experience and international outlook were viewed more positively. Firm favours Hong Kong candidates Motorola is hiring more than 1,000 staff in China in 2005 due to expansion, particularly for its R&D operations. Candidates from Hong Kong are regarded favourably because they generally have good qualifications and a more international outlook. Engineers are particularly in demand and will be employed in developing products based on advanced technology for both local and overseas markets. There will be vacancies in corporate support functions such as sales, marketing, finance, human resources and business development. The ability to work well in a team-based culture and to switch between projects are important attributes. Openness, flexibility and experience working in a large organisation are essential qualities for all candidates. The R&D centres in China have been responsible for developing many of the company's mobile phone models.