Samsung engineers impetus for innovation – BL on Campus

05 December 2021 13:02:25 IST

Payal Anand is a chief engineer at Samsung Research Institute Bangalore (SRI-B). An IIIT Gwalior alumna, Anand got a job at Samsung after her internship in 2014. She was exposed to the culture of patent filing early on at the R&D centre. She even attempted filing several patents but didn’t find much success. But after three years into her job, and with the right training and mentorship, she was able to identify a patentable invention, understand legal requirements, and the novelty and usefulness needed to be granted a patent.
Today, she has coinvented and filed three patents, of which, she is most proud of her work in the field of optimising neural networks used in Samsung smartphones.
Talent in R&D
There are many such as Anand that Samsung is hiring to build a talent pipeline for its R&D centres; an average of 1,000 engineers from top engineering colleges since 2018. The Korean technology major has three R&D centres in India — Delhi, Noida, and Bengaluru. Of the 1,000 engineers, around 260 will be hired from IIT campuses in Delhi, Kanpur, Mumbai, Madras, Guwahati, Kharagpur, BHU, Roorkie, and the new additions include Goa and Jodhpur for 2022. The remaining will be recruited from BITS Pilani, IIITs, and NITs.
 
The engineers work on cutting edge technology such as AI, ML, IoT, image processing, and camera technologies. The company invests in preparing R&D engineers as soon as it becomes apparent that important new skills are emerging, says Sameer Wadhawan, Senior VP and Head, HR, Samsung India.
The new hires are put through month-long software competency assessments and finishing school to bring them up to speed. After which, based on the emerging requirements, they can take advantage of Samsung University, an education platform which hosts 13,000+ courses in myriad subjects.
These young engineers are thriving in a culture conducive to innovation. SRI-B, its largest R&D centre outside Korea, has filed more than 7,500 patents globally and 3,500 in India so far. Millennials are filing the most number of patents. Nearly 50 per cent are first-time inventors like Payal Anand, and 27 per cent have less than five years of experience.
Dr Aloknath De, CTO, SRI-B, says, “Millennials and Gen Z employees on the team bring their novel ideas and new engineering techniques and join forces with senior employees, who have the technical expertise and shared vision. This way, the younger employees can file patents and become co-inventors sooner and successfully.”
SRI-B has witnessed a 25 per cent increase in the commercialisation of patent filings in the last three years. Says De: “This is the road ahead. We are looking at commercialising research and taking it to the market. We are quite accomplished in this, but we want to go some more miles. As part of powering Digital India, we are also looking towards building meaningful solutions for the Indian market in terms of R&D.”
Gen Z buzz
Samsung is riding the Gen Z wave, and the company is strategically expanding campus initiatives to source its talent. “We want to be present on-campus all-round the year and on top of students’ minds. The future of the workforce is Gen Z, and we want to capture that demographic. As the talent demand has gone up, we want to expand our supply base as well,” says Wadhawan.
Many innovations that take place at the R&D centres contribute to global products as well as develop India-specific innovations. For instance, SRI-B was at the forefront of bringing about features such as chat over video which allows users to chat and watch videos at the same time, and social camera mode for smartphones which can be used to instantly edit and share content on social media after clicking a picture. The R&D centre in Delhi — which leads televisions research — developed the PC mode on Samsung TVs, where the TV doubles up as a monitor using wireless screen mirroring, to create documents and work on the cloud.
Since many employees are straight out of college, SRI-B has tied up with IIIT Bangalore for an MTech programme and with IISc and IIT Madras for a PhD programme. Similarly, Samsung R&D centre in Noida has a tie-up with BITS Pilani for an MTech programme.
“We realised early on that the focus on continuous learning helps retain and strengthen the talent pool. To balance work and study, some of these competitive MTech programmes are stretched to three years instead of two. Six batches have graduated from IIITB and nearly 30 employees graduate each year,” says De.
Samsung turns to open innovation and leverages partnerships with start-ups and universities for research projects in fields such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and visual intelligence. In what’s called a ‘PRISM’ programme, students from engineering colleges such as Vellore Institute of Technology, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, and so on, work along with a faculty member and a Samsung mentor on a six-month real-time project to produce creative solutions. Moreover, the creative labs at Samsung encourage employees to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas.
“Industry relevance is growing in many premier institutes. They have introduced specialised courses in data science and AI with a clear understanding of the future of work. Students come with the right training; and with orientation, they hit the ground running,” says De.
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