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Lenovo plans to hire 12,000 R&D workers, hypes 'quick market returns'

Talks up 'Client-Edge-Cloud-Network-Intelligence' as it looks to consolidate lockdown gains

Lenovo says it is looking to hire 12,000 workers in research and development (R&D) roles.

Chairman and CEO Yuanqing Yang laid out the company's vision for the years ahead at the start of its new financial year. He said that R&D remains a crucial priority for Lenovo, and reiterated a pledge from the PC maker last year that it would double spending in the segment over the next three years.

The Chinese-American firm raised research and development spend from $1.336 billion in 2020 to $1.454 billion in 2021. Its highest reported R&D expense year was 2016 [PDF], when it totted up $1.491 billion in spending.

In October last year, Lenovo controversially pulled its IPO listing from Shanghai's Star Market. Although it has not explained the reason for ditching the home listing, tightened updated rules would have required, among other things, that the number of R&D employees made up at least 10 percent of the total number of employees in any given year. According to a report in SCMP late in 2021, the new listing requirements contributed to the pull-out.

We've asked Lenovo for comment but it did not respond to this particular question.

As part of today's announcement, Yuanqing said Lenovo aims to hire 12,000 R&D professionals around the world during the same three-yeartime frame, saying the main role of the new hires would be to support research across what he calls the new IT architecture of "Client-Edge-Cloud-Network-Intelligence."

"My vision for Lenovo's innovation is to become one of the world's leading ICT companies, a pioneer and enabler of intelligent transformation," he said in a statement. "Our investment plan will center around the 'Client-Edge-Cloud-Network-Intelligence' architecture, with a three-track approach to focus on short, medium and long-term payback. Our intention is to optimize between technology with quick market returns and foundational research, and between continuous improvement and breakthrough innovation."

We asked Lenovo what this meant, and a spokesperson told us that Client, Edge, Cloud, Network and Intelligence are the five pillars of the firm's R&D focus, and that there are short, medium and long-term goals for each of those pillars.

Some goals may seem a little vague: on Client, for example, Lenovo aims to enhance the user experience through the use of new technologies and new materials. However, on Edge, Lenovo said it intends to develop the Lenovo Edge Computing platform to include multi-access edge computing (MEC), lightweight virtualization, and "device-edge-cloud" collaborative intelligent management.

For Cloud, Lenovo said it wants to "continue leadership in HPC system architecture design and liquid cooling," and develop hybrid/multi-cloud management technology. In the Network pillar, the firm will focus on 5G and cloud-network convergence, while for the Intelligence pillar, Lenovo's goals are around driving big data and AI platform development and a focus on vertical solutions such as smart cities and smart manufacturing.

Lenovo's investment proposals follow some record PC sales for the company in 2021 when its shipments hit 82.142 million, benefting from lockdowns that forced people to work, learn and play at home.

The datacenter and infrastructure division has also found some form: in the most recent quarter of Lenovo's fiscal 2022 it made a profit for the first time since acquiring IBM's x86 server business in 2014./ However, Lenovo is still a long way behind leaders such as Dell and HPE in terms of server and storage revenue.

A Lenovo spokesman told us the new hires were part of Lenovo's "wider strategy to focus on solutions and services – not just devices."

Lenovo also outlined its vision to become a net-zero company by 2050, as part of which the firm said it is working with the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) to establish goals that support this. SBTi is a partnership between the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the CDP, which runs the global disclosure system for organizations to manage their environmental impact.

The company claims that it exceeded its 2020 emission reduction goals a year ahead of schedule and has already established science-based targets for 2030. Those interested can track how the company is doing in its most recent environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reports. ®

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