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Research and Development: A Lucrative Employment Market for Young Scientists

By Ann-Kathrin Akalin

Whether it's senior-friendly cars, whole body 3D scanners, car seats made from sugar and cellulose or new drugs to fight cancer, research which has clear practical applications is a dream come true for many young scientists. This is the reality of research and development in companies where the aim is to develop productive links between science and business.

Research and Development: A Lucrative Employment Market© Lise Gagne - iStockphoto.com
Research and development encompasses a range of exciting subjects, cutting edge technologies and high-quality products, and the inventions being tinkered with by researchers today may well be used by us all tomorrow. Whereas basic fundamental research generally takes place at technical universities or in other public and private research institutes, companies are seeking to develop scientific knowledge in such a way that it unlocks direct practical applications which can ultimately be translated into marketable products. This innovative force is a decisive factor for companies in ensuring their sustainability and asserting their position in the market. For young scientists this offers a broad playing field with excellent, sometimes global, development opportunities.

Opportunities at Home and Abroad

The value which Bayer AG places on research and development is clear from its slogan: Science For A Better Life. The company, which, in addition to drugs, produces crop protection products and plastics and also provides IT infrastructure and technology solutions for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, places great importance on "engaging exceptionally qualified and highly motivated employees to carry out research and development work that can help put the company's motto into practice", explains Dr. Dirk Pfenning from the Center of Expertise People Development at Bayer AG. With more than 12,000 jobs in this area, Bayer offers staff a broad spectrum of opportunities both at home and abroad: Around half of the company's researchers work in Germany; two thirds of the total research staff is employed throughout Europe. North America is another key research area for the company where 20% of its R&D staff are active while another 10% work in Asia. "Since we recruit staff internationally, there is a substantial proportion of foreign academics even at our German sites", comments Pfenning.

According to Dr. Ulrich Eberl, Head of Global Innovation Communication at Munich-based industrial conglomerate Siemens, which is active in a wide range of markets such as domestic appliances, communications networks and solutions, healthcare, building technology, energy and IT solutions, the research and development division is a "key success factor for the company". Eberl goes on to explain that the R&D division produces innovations which have always formed the cornerstones of the company's success. With some 1,500 open positions currently available at Siemens, of which 80% are for scientists and engineers, there are plenty of career opportunities for young scientists. At present Siemens employees around 13,000 researchers in Germany alone.

A similar story can be found at Daimler AG where research is regarded as an essential factor in the company's commercial success. "Our research and development activities are our absolute number one priority", stresses Maria Riolo, Head of Global Talent Acquisition & Development. At Daimler they are always on the look-out for motivated people "with whom we can work to reinvent the automobile", she continues. Daimler's R&D activities employ 19,000 staff and internationalisation is very much a keyword because research teams are frequently international in their composition and work across time zones and borders. In addition to R&D facilities in Germany, the car manufacturer has sites in Bangalore (India), Yokohama (Japan), Shanghai (China), Palo Alto (USA) and Moscow (Russia).

Increasing research budgets

In Germany, the amount of investment in R&D activities is around 2.5% of the GDP, which is only slightly above the OECD average of 2.2% even though 70% of all research and development activities are for the German economy. Only around €2 billion in public funding is made available annually for research and development purposes, while technical universities and research institutes receive almost €15 billion. But despite the crisis, the research budget for the German economy is actually increasing: in 2007 the budget amounted to €53.5 billion with forecasts for 2008 in the region of €56.8 billion and almost €60 billion for 2009. Large companies simply cannot abandon research and development.

Enthusiasm is highly sought after

So how do scientists and companies find the right match? Bayer, for example, finds scientists by organising its own recruiting events which include courses for doctoral students and postdoctoral workshops as well as through its website - www.mybayerjob.de. The company is also represented at university fairs and graduate conferences in Germany and abroad. Bayer is on the look-out for qualified staff in all areas, particularly those with expertise in natural sciences, engineering, economics and IT. The overwhelming majority of jobs offered to graduates in the natural sciences are as laboratory managers for which a doctorate is necessary. According to Pfenning, successful candidates must have motivation skills, managerial abilities and communication skills in addition to excellent subject knowledge. "At Bayer we want lateral thinkers who can look at a situation and see possibilities which might seem unorthodox at first".

At Daimler they also organise special events to encourage young engineers and women into technical careers. On "Engineers Day" for example, participants are given an overview of the numerous different job options on offer. Daimler is looking for engineers and university graduates from disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, communications technology, automotive engineering, industrial engineering, IT, information management, aerospace engineering and process engineering. According to HR expert Maria Riolo, the key requirements for potential candidates are the ability to work as part of a team, a genuine personality, an understanding of other cultures and good English language skills. "A CV which highlights a period of time spent living abroad is a definite plus" comments Riolo, Head of Global Recruiting.

At Siemens, Ulrich Eberl describes Corporate Technology as an important entry point for university graduates who may move to other managerial units at a later stage in their careers. Each year, Siemens sets up around 500 research partnerships world-wide which, in addition to the standard research, facilitate contact with leading researchers who may ultimately want to move into industry. The company is particularly interested in experts in areas such as mathematics, chemistry, electrical engineering and physics. While a doctorate may be regarded as helpful during the application process, overall applicants are assessed on the basis of their qualifications, titles take second place.

Attractive salaries

A crucial point in favour of research and development jobs in companies is that the salaries are more attractive in comparison to universities or public research institutes. While researchers in universities and public research institutes receive on average €41,000 per annum, their counterparts in industry earn on average between €52,000 and €56,000 per annum. The difference is even obvious for those just starting their careers with the average annual public sector salary of €34,000 compared to €41,000 in industry.

Salaries do, however, vary quite significantly depending on a person's qualifications and work experience. At Bayer a graduate can expect to earn €54,000 per year while someone with a doctorate can expect to earn €63,000 Euro. On top of this, a range of variable income components such as bonuses which are dependent on the company's performance are on offer as well as supplements for previous experience. In addition to normal salaries, Daimler also offers a range of employer benefits such as pensions, etc. The prospect of an attractive salary is just one more reason to take notice of the possibilities on offer in industry.

academics :: July 2009