By Connie Johnson Hambley
Bingbing Feng and Chip Carnathan have a lot in common. Both men are pharmaceutical professionals with doctorates from U.S. universities, multiple years of experience with American biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and families in the U.S. Each thinks his best career move would be to work in China next.
The pharmaceutical and drug-development business is changing globally, with unavoidable effects on the lives of professionals. The past three years have seen big pharmaceutical companies laying off tens of thousands of highly educated, trained scientists and the U.S. is not creating jobs fast enough to absorb the talent. In tandem with this decline has been an intense push by China to create companies and jobs in the life science sector. As more work is outsourced to China, less is performed in the U.S. Being jobless in the U.S. for a year or more is not uncommon, so China is poised to be the largest beneficiary of a global talent shift.
In 2007 the report "Globalization of Innovation: Pharmaceuticals," co-authored by Vivek Wadhwa, a senior research associate at Harvard Law School, noted that 5 of the world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies were based in the U.S., although the country's standing was threatened. "Cost pressures, the need to tap global talent, and growth opportunities in emerging markets have prompted Western pharmaceutical companies to shift substantial manufacturing and clinical-trial work to India and China," the report stated. "Increasingly these companies are turning to Asia to broaden the range of new drug candidates."
The intellectual processes of innovation and creativity, often called scientific rigor, hold the key to pharmaceutical success. After scientists present research to peers and superiors, a dynamic dialogue questions and critiques the work, requiring the scientists to push back with rebuttals. Such vigorous sessions are the hallmark of Western research and development culture. Scientists trained to "push back" are in demand -- just not so much in the U.S. According to the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators, U.S. institutions granted 41,000 science and engineering PhDs in 2007, a third of them to foreign students. The SEI report notes that "recent growth in R&D expenditures has been most dramatic in China, averaging just above 19 percent annually in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past decade," compared with just a 3.3 percent increase in the U.S.
People who were born abroad, obtain educational and work experience in the U.S., and then go back to their homelands are referred to as "returnees." "Availability of talent and human capital continues to be a significant concern" to expanding companies, stated the globalization report. While Indian and Chinese returnees are "available today in greater numbers than in years past, many [local] pharmaceutical employees have limited experience with drug-discovery culture."
"In China it's harder for people to express themselves voluntarily. They are trained from elementary school to compete for No. 1 so that no one can beat you," says Mei-Shu Shih, a returnee who serves as chief scientific officer of PharmaLegacy Laboratories, a contract research organization based in Shanghai. "In the United States the mentality in the corporations is to push for scientists to be team players." Shih says that once team spirit is cultivated in a group of native Chinese scientists, they open up and become "quite brilliant." Still, he notes, a cultural reticence to speak up can be difficult to overcome.
The push for Western-trained scientists has begun. Cliff Hegan, managing director of Fitco-Consulting, an executive recruiting firm based in Shanghai and Singapore, says that "Western research-and-discovery technology is more scientifically advanced. Chinese-trained scientists are more application-centered and therefore less technically advanced and innovative in their thinking." Pharmaceutical companies want U.S. trained managers because of their entrepreneurial spirit and creative problem solving skills, in contrast to the more linear, pragmatic, approach of their Asian counterparts. The cultural divide is creating opportunities.
Language is typically not a barrier for a Western scientist seeking to enter the Chinese job market, especially at senior levels. Companies are often willing to provide Mandarin tutors to ease the transition. And because most senior and middle managers in China received essential scientific training in the U.S., they tend to speak English, with young PhDs surprisingly fluent. "Most scientists are surprised when they walk into a lab in Beijing and sit down and interact with a team. Often they see former colleagues and it feels quite like a biotech in Cambridge," where easily 25 percent of the scientists are Chinese, says John Oyler, a serial entrepreneur and graduate of MIT and Stanford who is starting a cancer research company in Beijing. "It is early here and there is still room for many more talented, Western-trained, research-and-discovery professionals in Beijing."
Oyler moved to Beijing in 2005 to start BioDuro, a contract research organization that was sold to Pharmaceutical Product Development, a leading global research contractor focused on drug discovery, development, and life-cycle-management services in 2009. "Most people thought I was crazy to move to China. But the move was obvious," he said. "There are top academic institutions here -- unequalled by any city other than Boston -- talented and hardworking professionals with great minds, and deep financial support from the Beijing government." Oyler says it was easy to create a vibrant life because of the energy and close-knit nature of the industry in China.
Some companies prefer candidates fluent in both languages and familiar with both cultures. Bingbing Feng exemplifies this point. "A returnee brings knowledge and experience that a local Chinese does not," he says. Born and raised in Beijing, Feng moved to the U.S. at 22 to continue his scientific education. He received his doctorate from Purdue in 1997 and then worked in Pennsylvania for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). "The expectations are much higher for a returnee," he said. "We are expected to bring more to our job and deliver more than a local Chinese." Open to working in the U.S. or China, Feng says China offers "more opportunities as it's building up the industry."
Dr. Jisong Cui, director at Merck Research Laboratories and president of the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Assn., admits that heritage is coaxing some of her friends back to Asia. Most return, she says, because they consider the career options to be better in China. Since her organization was created in 1993, in part to promote scientific exchange between the U.S. and China, SAPA has grown to more than 4,000 members. Cui estimates that 1,000 U.S.-based members have already returned to China. Indeed, Merck is moving its external research and clinical services work to China to take advantage of current trends.
Carnathan, who has worked in drug development and global regulatory affairs, says he would tell his sons to "jump at the chance to work in China" and would himself follow that advice if he were to receive an offer there. "China is the next wave of business innovation and growth and to be there at the beginning of the upswing is even better," Carnathan says.
It's an unfortunate fact of a downturn: declining corporate cash flows and slumping confidence usually induce firms to file fewer patents and slash spending on research and development.
Apparently, China didn't get the memo.
As much of the world invested fewer resources in innovation during the global downturn, Chinese firms spent more on innovative efforts, such as R&D and patent and trademark applications, according to a report by a UN agency.
On Wednesday, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said that patent applications in China jumped 18.2 percent in 2008 and another 8.5 percent in 2009. Over the same period, ZTE, China's second-largest telecom equipment maker, boosted R&D spending 44.8 percent.
In the U.S., patent filings fell 11.7 percent in 2008 and 2009, while companies like General Motors, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft slashed their R&D budget by more than 20 percent from 2008 to 2009. In Europe and Japan new patent filings dropped 7.9 and 10.8 percent, respectively, in 2009.
"China is moving up the value chain and rapidly increasing exports based on domestic innovation, so inevitably it is filing an ever-growing number of patent applications," WIPO's Chief told a news conference as the agency announced its latest findings.
China decided years back that it no longer wants to be the sweatshop of the world. The country's recent investments in innovation at a time when loans and venture capital were sparse reflect its ambitions to become an innovation-oriented nation by 2020.
China's penchant for patents may partly explain why it's shifting away from low-cost manufacturing, as the New York Times reports this morning.
Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Dell Inc. plans to spend more than $100 billion over 10 years to broaden operations in China and capture more sales in the world鈥檚 second-largest economy.
The company will open a second China operations center next year in Chengdu, adding production, sales and support in the western part of the country. It will also add an office and as many as 500 workers at its existing Xiamen site, the Round Rock, Texas-based company said in a statement.
Last year鈥檚 sales increased in the Asia-Pacific region for Dell at a faster pace than other parts of the world. Still, the company got only 12 percent in its business revenue last year from Asia-Pacific, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The manufacturing and customer support center in Chengdu will begin operations in 2011 and may eventually employ 3,000 people, the company said. It didn鈥檛 elaborate on how it intends to spend the $100 billion.
Dell fell 3 cents to $12.27 at 12:08 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares had fallen 14 percent this year before today.
Dell said it鈥檚 the No. 2 supplier of PCs in China and that it posted a 52 percent revenue increase in its most recent fiscal quarter.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc plans to almost triple its workforce in China by hiring up to 7,500 people in the next three years, an executive told Bloomberg in an interview published on Tuesday.
Citigroup, which has 4,500 employees in China, will hire more in that country that in any other Asia-Pacific market, according to Bloomberg's interview with Stephen Bird, Citigroup's co-chief executive officer for the region.
The hiring plans will support Citigroup's efforts to expand in the region and compete with HSBC Holdings PLC and Standard Chartered PLC .
Bird told Reuters last week that Citigroup planned to open two branches a month on average in China for the foreseeable future, the maximum allowed by regulators.
The company's strategy "is progressively more weighted to emerging markets," Bird told Reuters. "Greater China is the future."
Citigroup plans to double its number of branches in Hong Kong to 50 by the end of the year and increase the number of branches on the mainland to 38 by the end of the year, from 29 currently.
A Citigroup spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. The company's shares were trading up less than one percent, at $3.70, by mid-afternoon.
According to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey results released today by Manpower Inc. (NYSE: MAN), hiring expectations in emerging markets -- China, Taiwan, India and Brazil -- continue to outpace the rest of the world. Meanwhile, employer hiring confidence in European countries is mixed with positive job prospects reported in Germany for the quarter ahead. And although hiring plans in the U.S. are stronger compared to one year ago, the cautiously optimistic hiring pace reported for the next three months indicates economic concerns continue to weigh on the minds of American employers.
"We're seeing a multi-speed recovery in the global labor market with talent demand in high gear in many of the emerging markets we survey. Other markets, such as the U.S. and Japan, are still moving forward but can't seem to get out of first gear," said Jeffrey A. Joerres, Chairman and CEO of Manpower Inc. "Employers in many markets continue to struggle with inconsistent demand for their products and services making it difficult to anticipate staff needs. As a result, a flexible workforce strategy will be critical during this point of the recovery cycle."
The Manpower data shows employers in 28 of 36 countries and territories expect positive hiring activity in the fourth quarter, with those in five reporting negative hiring expectations -- an improvement in comparison to the 12 countries reporting negative outlooks 12 months ago. Globally, employers in 32 countries and territories are reporting stronger year-over-year outlooks, with those in China, Taiwan, India and Brazil indicating the strongest fourth-quarter job prospects. Notably, forecasts from Chinese, Swiss and Taiwanese employers are the most optimistic since Manpower began polling there. The weakest hiring plans for the upcoming quarter are reported in Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain and Ireland.
Across the Asia Pacific region, year-over-year forecasts improve in each of the eight countries and territories surveyed, with forecasts improving from the third quarter in three. Hiring plans in the region are strongest in China, Taiwan and India. Meanwhile, employer hiring plans in Japan are the most conservative in the region, but they are considerably stronger compared to one year ago.
"Continued strong domestic growth is fueling stronger job prospects in all industry sectors in China and Taiwan from three months ago. As a result, the talent wars are waging again as companies struggle to retain the talent they need," said Joerres. "In contrast, Indian employers expect to ease the pace of hiring slightly. Interestingly, our data reveals a bright spot in the Japanese Manufacturing sector, where hiring expectations have improved for six consecutive quarters and are the strongest in two years."
Similar to the third quarter, fourth-quarter hiring expectations remain mixed in the 18 countries surveyed in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Employers are reporting positive Net Employment Outlooks in 10 countries, but those in 11 expect the pace of hiring to soften from three months ago. However, the year-over-year comparison is more positive with improved Outlooks reported in 15 of 18 countries. Hiring activity in the region is expected to be strongest in Switzerland, Norway and Poland and weakest in Greece and Italy.
"European labor markets have yet to gain real traction due in part to the uncertainty in Greece and Italy. But we are seeing notable improvements across the region in the Finance and Business Services sector, where year-over-year forecasts improve in 15 countries, most notably in Switzerland, Germany and Norway," said Joerres. "The German labor market continues to be resilient; however lack of talent, especially engineers, healthcare professionals and sales staff, is becoming a real issue for employers in many sectors."
Across the 10 countries surveyed in the Americas region, employers anticipate varying degrees of positive hiring activity. Outlooks improve in six countries from three months ago, but improve in all countries when year-over-year comparisons are made. Regional hiring plans are again strongest in Brazil, Peru and Costa Rica and weakest in the U.S., where hiring plans are relatively stable from three months ago but are notably stronger than those reported one year ago.
"Hiring confidence has returned to the majority of the region with employers in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Panama and Colombia reporting their most optimistic plans of the year," said Joerres. "Brazilian employers in the Services sector continue to create jobs at a rapid pace and in many industry sectors wage arbitrage is becoming an issue for both professional and skilled trades roles. Meanwhile, in the U.S. most of the hiring that was done in the third quarter will be absorbed, yet negative outlooks are reported for just two sectors -- Construction and Government. U.S. job seekers can expect to find the most opportunities in the Wholesale & Retail Trade and Mining sectors in the quarter ahead."
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