A hi-tech automotive facility makes plans to bring China on a par with rest of the world CARS CONJURE up different emotions in different people. Some think of Formula One racing or the latest James Bond vehicle, while others think about safety and pollution. No matter what people think, there is no escaping the fact that the number of cars on the roads is going up. Vehicle production in China is set to double to 10 million units a year between 2004 and 2010. To help steer the industry through such rapid growth, the country is counting on Hong Kong's new Automotive Parts and Accessory Systems Research and Development Centre. It hopes the centre will provide the essential research and development support to the industry. The centre has been set up as a non-profit-making company with automotive testing capabilities. It has four areas of focus: electronics and software, safety systems, hybrid and electric drives, and advanced materials. The setting up of the centre is good news for professionals keen to enter the automotive manufacturing industry. Four senior people are immediately needed and six more will be recruited during the next 12 months. Recruitment will continue over the next five years. The posts to be filled immediately are those of chief executive, director of research and technology, director of business development and commercialisation, and associate director for quality and compliance. 'We are looking for people who are technically competent, have an entrepreneurial flair and can foster working partnerships with both industry and universities. We are looking for synergy,' said Tony Lee, the centre's interim chief executive. All applicants are expected to have a strong science or engineering background and a sound knowledge of the automotive industry. They should be innovative, self-motivated, and fluent in English and Chinese. Salaries are expected to range between $1 million and $2 million a year. Those recruited will work closely with mainland manufacturers, and people from Hong Kong and around the world. Dr Lee said many Hong Kong people who wanted to be involved in the car industry had moved to the US and Europe. He saw the openings at the centre as an ideal opportunity for them to return to Hong Kong. All these positions would lead to opportunities either at the centre or in the industry, he said. Dr Lee said people who could lead the industry to new technologies would be highly valued. He saw commercialisation of research as one of the centre's more important functions. According to Dr Lee, there is a big gap between China and the rest of the world in automotive research and technology. 'This is due to the nature of the existing joint ventures between China and other countries, which have meant that China has just been involved in assembly while the R&D and core technology remained in the partner country,' he said. Stephen Lee, director of product productivity at the Hong Kong Productivity Council, said Hong Kong was traditionally strong in electronics and software, safety systems, hybrid and electric drive, and advanced materials. One of the core tasks of the centre would be to harness existing knowledge and skills that could be applied to the automotive industry. 'China is now looking to localise technology and research, and sees Hong Kong as the ideal local partner. These new positions at the centre offer an exciting opportunity to be involved at the cutting edge of research and development for the automotive industry in one of the world's fastest growing markets,' Dr Lee said. Hiring drive The automotive research centre is looking to fill four senior positions immediately. Annual salaries are expected to be in the range of $1 million to $2 million. Applicants should have a strong science or engineering background, and good knowledge of the automotive industry. They should be self-motivated, and fluent in English and Chinese. Six more positions will be available over the next 12 months, and more people will be hired over the next five years.