Thermo pours $9.5M into Chinese R&D shop

Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper

Thermo Fisher ($TMO) has its sights set on China, putting up $9.5 million to open an R&D center in Shanghai to develop new technologies for the growing market.

Over the next three years, Thermo plans to hire between 200 and 300 engineers at its so-called China Innovation Center, a facility that will also train about 2,500 customers per year on the company's life science and diagnostic tools. Three-quarters of the planned 40,000-square-foot space will be devoted to biology labs for product development, with the rest designated for training, Thermo said.

The planned expansion follows Thermo's $20 million investment in a Suzhou manufacturing facility back in November, and CEO Marc Casper said his company's continued focus on China is a response to mounting demand for high-tech tools in the country's burgeoning life sciences industry.

"China is one of our fastest-growing markets and continues to be a key contributor to our success," Casper said in a statement. "The China Innovation Center builds on our well-established local presence and is an important next step as we align our product development efforts with investments in our manufacturing infrastructure."

Last year, Thermo's Chinese revenue grew by more than 20%, and the company said it has expanded to employ about 2,300 people in the country since entering the market 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, Life Technologies ($LIFE), Thermo's soon-to-be subsidiary, has charted its own path for Asia-Pacific growth, recently buying out two of its South Korean distributors in an effort to get its hands on more of that country's demand for reagents and sequencing technology. In China, Life is at work expanding its diagnostics presence, winning local FDA approval for the 3500xL Dx Genetic Analyzer and launching 10 assays for drug-resistance testing, cancer mutation identification and prenatal chromosome disorder detection.

Thermo expects to close its $13.6 billion buyout of Life early next year, and Casper has said the deal will spur about 30% annual revenue growth for his company and save about $275 million by year three.

- read Thermo's announcement