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Seagate to build US$79m R&D centre in S'pore
Publication Date : 31-07-2013
Technology giant Seagate is defying the gloom and doom surrounding the PC industry by investing S$100 million (US$79 million) in a new research and development (R&D) facility.
Its new building - called The Shugart after Seagate founder Alan Shugart - will bring all its R&D staff under one roof, a move that should enhance collaboration and innovation.
Its 500-strong Singapore R&D team, which has contributed more than 200 patents to Seagate's file of 7,500, is now housed in two buildings at the Singapore Science Park.
The Shugart, which will be ready in early 2015, has space for 900 staff. It is at one-north, a 200ha JTC Corporation project hosting world-class research facilities and businesses.
The new centre comes amid testing times for hard-disk manufacturers like Seagate, which has about 7,000 staff in Singapore, making it one of the largest technology firms here.
Worldwide PC shipments dropped 10.9 per cent between April and last month to 76 million units, the fifth consecutive quarter of declining shipments, according to research firm Gartner.
But Seagate, which has its international headquarters in Ang Mo Kio and three hard-disk manufacturing facilities in Woodlands, still sees plenty of potential.
Its optimism is based on the explosion of mobile devices, including tablets and featherweight notebooks called ultrabooks.
Chief technology officer Mark Re declined to give Seagate's growth figures but said that "last year, the hard-disk drive industry shipped 400EB of storage capacity, continuing a 40 per cent growth rate from the previous year". One exabyte (EB) is one billion gigabytes and could contain 50,000 years' worth of DVD-quality video.
Seagate is intensifying its focus on mobile storage. The Singapore R&D team has already been working on this area, targeting the 2.5-inch drive format.
One of its innovations is a new 2.5-inch drive that is only 5mm thick, or the height of two credit cards, said Re, who spoke to The Straits Times during yesterday's ground-breaking ceremony for the new building.
Another innovation is the third generation of what is called hyper drive. This is essentially a process that combines old and new technology to deliver a cheaper and faster way to access data while enhancing security and reliability.
"By 2017, about 85 per cent of our production will be hyper drives," noted Re.
Seagate will also use new technologies to stack more data in its traditional hard-disk drives, allowing it to make thin and light products with low power consumption that can store more than one terabyte (TB) of data. One TB equals 1,000GB and can hold about 412 DVD-quality movies. By 2015, Seagate will be able to ship 2TB drives for ultrabooks.
"We're already planning 4TB products for 2016," Re added.
Seagate has 41 per cent of the global market for hard-disk drives. It has been in Singapore for 31 years, and first started with a sub-assembly plant for disk drive components in 1982. Its R&D activity began here in 1984 with a seven-man team.
Julian Ho, assistant managing director of the Economic Development Board, said Seagate's presence has provided skilled jobs for Singaporeans that pay better than most manufacturing work.
"It has also led to the creation of promising career pathways within and across manufacturing and R&D for Singaporeans," added Ho, who was speaking at yesterday's ceremony.
The Shugart, which will have nearly 41,000 sq m of space for 900 engineers, will comprise two inter-connected towers.
Research firms said tablets and storage industries are growing on the back of robust sales.
In Southeast Asia, for example, research firm GfK said tablet sales grew 101 per cent between June last year and May this year compared with the year before.
Gartner believes the hard-disk drive industry will continue to grow and be driven by storage of personal and business data from e-mail, spreadsheets, movies, songs, social network postings and other material.