UK drug maker AstraZeneca eyes IoT center in Chennai

UK drug maker AstraZeneca is looking to open a new center of excellence for Internet of things at the British-Swedish drug maker’s facility in Chennai.

IoT, robotics and data science capabilities, apart from augmented and virtual reality, are going to be the dominant technologies going forward for the company and its India centers will be looking at all of these technologies and will be innovating for the globe, said Cindy L Hoots, AstraZeneca’s chief digital and technology officer.

India is increasingly becoming a hub for innovation for the company, and it has more than 100 vacancies in the country which it will be looking to fill shortly, she said.

“We’re going to be doing quite a lot of work in IoT, so we’re setting up a center of excellence around IoT here (in Chennai),” Hoots told ET. “We’ve just started a center of expertise around augmented reality and virtual reality which will be one of the dominant technologies in the next 10 years.”

It does not have any such centers for IoT anywhere else in the world, she added.

“We have 28 manufacturing sites worldwide where we will start to use IoT even further,” Hoots said. “We’re in the planning stage where we are understanding what the business needs are, how big will this really be, and then we’ll move a team here. So, I would imagine that we’re probably looking at the end of first quarter next year before we would start to actually hire (for the IoT center in Chennai).”

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The virtual reality team has been launched with about eight people, but since it is going to be a dominant and pervasive technology, there is a need to scale it up, she said.

“What we’ve been doing in addition to reskilling people is also using robotic process automation to handle routine work and free up resources to now put into more innovation type roles like IoT, machine learning, AI and so on,” Hoots said.

As a result, she said, she expected more than 100 roles to move to the center in the next 18 months or so. This number could even touch 200 as AstraZeneca is looking to grow more roles in India for IT than anywhere else.

Hoots said the company was also looking to expand its capabilities in India in emerging technologies like AI and machine learning, data science and data engineering. She said 50% of her global team was based in Chennai.

“As we start driving more innovation out of India, then some of those innovation roles that we currently have in other parts of the world will come here,” she said. “We’ve been gearing up to think about our building’s space, whether we can accommodate more people, how do we attract talent … We’re definitely looking to hire new, bright young minds in this space.”

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