China dims prospects for Silicon Valley jobs

Nous sommes assis sur des trilliards de dettes et eux sont assis sur des trilliards de réserves et il ne plaisante pas, ça va jouer dur.

De plus, il y a une différence entre les médias traditionnels et un blogue, je n’ai pas besoin de survivre grâce aux annonceurs, tels que le milieu financier et les gros industriels.

Ce qui fait la force des blogues cet esprit d’indépendance de l’information sans subir la pression des annonceurs de limiter mon discours.

Extrait de: China dims prospects for Silicon Valley jobs, Richard Waters in San Francisco, FT, January 28 2011

Light bulb maker Bridgelux is exactly the kind of company that Barack Obama had in mind when he stressed the importance of innovation in winning jobs for US workers during his State of the Union address this week.

A manufacturer of light bulbs that use low-power light-emitting diodes, it is part of a wave of companies formed in Silicon Valley in recent years specialising in “green” technologies such as alternative energy, new forms of energy storage and conservation, and electric vehicles.

By guaranteeing access to big local markets, countries such as China have worked harder than the US to attract new industries like these, Mr Watkins says. Incentives are also being offered to move research and development jobs to Asia as well.

The experience of companies such as Bridgelux points to a dilemma for the US as it faces what Mr Obama called a “sputnik moment”. The country’s universities still lead the world in many areas of basic research, and Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial system continues to be the envy of other countries. But most new jobs resulting from US innovation are likely to be created in other places, most notably Asia, say many tech industry insiders – and it is not just low-value assembly work that is at stake.

Silicon Valley, though a bright spot in California’s labour market, has seen only sluggish job growth since the recession, according to Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network, which represents business, government and other interests in the region. High costs are likely to prevent even the top tech companies from hiring many more people locally, he says.

“Extraordinarily high-value products are still going to emanate from the US – but these companies aren’t going to employ a lot of people here,” says Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, a top start-up financiers.

Against that background, Mr Obama’s focus this week on stimulating innovation was generally welcomed in the technology industry, even if the effect on job prospects is uncertain.

The president’s emphasis on the need to improve the nation’s infrastructure, alongside spending on basic research and improvements in education, could pay dividends in the long term, says John Seely Brown, a former had of Xerox’s Silicon Valley research centre.

“We really have to get back to building things,” he says. “We can’t just design things.” Linking spending on basic research with heavy investment in physical and digital infrastructure points to a “new kind of 21st-century economy that still has us building stuff”.

Some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs say the model for the kind of high-tech manufacturing that can work in the US already exists. “The rumours of the demise of the US manufacturing industry are greatly exaggerated,” says Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors, an ambitious Californian electric car start-up that has received a $465m loan from the Department of Energy.

Along with staff making rockets at his other company, SpaceX, in California, Mr Musk employs more than 2,000 people in the state. California has “an incredible labour pool, but is kind of expensive”, he says – something his companies have to overcome by “figuring out clever ways to be more productive”.

Entrepreneurs such as Mr Musk play down Washington’s ability to shape the conditions for high-tech industries to take root in the US, and cast the issue as a battle between US ingenuity on the one hand and brawn on the other.

That battle is being fought out most dramatically in solar power manufacturing. An industry that was once seen as a bright hope in many parts of the US has shifted rapidly to Asia. This month, Evergreen Solar shut a plant in Massachusetts after less than three years with the loss of 800 jobs, and is moving production to China.

The pendulum will swing back to the US lead with the next generation of more advanced solar power technology, according to venture capitalists.

Yet the fact remains that the companies mastering the new technology are already creating more jobs abroad than at home. Fewer than a third of the workers at First Solar, the leading company in the most advanced photovoltaic technologies, are based in the US – though the construction of large-scale solar farms that use its products will add to the local job-count.