Cisco opens R&D center in west of Ireland

Facility to focus on unified communications products

Cisco Systems Inc. will open a research center in Ireland to develop unified communications products.

The office, announced on Tuesday and to be located in the western city of Galway, will initially employ 50 researchers but is expected to grow to 200 positions in the next three years. The researchers will build new unified communications applications and services, which allow workers to have a single point of access where they can be contacted via a variety of methods such as e-mail, voice mail, VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol), instant messaging and video.

Cisco also plans to consider opportunities for collaborative research with industry and academic organizations in Ireland.

Cisco currently employs 66 people in local sales and support in Ireland.

The networking giant said it is expanding its investment in development around the world in order to be responsive to customer needs. Ireland's available talent pool and positive business climate attracted the company.

Ireland's corporate tax rate, the lowest in Europe and among the lowest in the world, began attracting significant numbers of overseas companies about 20 years ago. Since then, other costs, such as energy and salaries, have risen dramatically in Ireland. As a result, the government has begun pursuing research and development investments, like Cisco's, which tend to be less reliant on extremely low operational costs and more focused on available talent than other types of operations, such as manufacturing.

Ireland's Industrial Development Agency (IDA), a government body tasked with recruiting overseas companies to Ireland, said it has been courting Cisco for some time. The IDA often offers multimillion euro incentives to companies that choose to open up operations in the country. The agency said it supported the opening of the new center but it did not reveal how much it may have offered Cisco as incentive.

The trend toward unified communications is growing as an increasing number of networks support IP. Earlier this year, Cisco began bundling a variety of its products related to voice, e-mail, text, videoconferencing and collaboration under a new Unified Communications System brand. Cisco also recently bought Metreos Corp. and Audium Corp. to make it easier for enterprise developers to integrate applications in the Unified Communications System.

Cisco has competition in the space. Microsoft Corp. and Nortel Networks Corp. recently formed an alliance to develop unified communications technologies to enterprise customers.

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