NTT attract top cryptography and quantum talent by offering researchers $1 million in salaries
Telecom conglomerate NTT Group promises unprecedented wages to recruit top scientists as it seeks to equal some of the critical scientific capabilities of international powerhouses, including Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc.
The longtime Japanese telecommunications monopoly has set annual salaries of up to $1 million (108.45 million yen) for researchers at its labs in Palo Alto, California, said Kazuhiro Gomi, chairman of the research group. That’s more than the company pays its CEO and 41-year-old veteran Jun Sawada, and a remarkable move for a traditional Japanese business like NTT.
The increased investment in basic science comes as NTT reorganises its businesses to focus more on cloud computing services and data centres amid a diminishing outlook for profit from its leading mobile carrier. According to Gomi, having star scientists on the payroll of the laboratory, backed by a five-year budget of 25 billion yen, helps the group draw better technology workers and partners as it wages a global war for the top talent it needs to expand globally.
“We compete with companies such as Google and Apple,” Gomi said, explaining that the company has traditionally followed the modest pay norm in Japan. “It wouldn’t be feasible many years ago.” Tatsuaki Okamoto, NTT Research’s director of cryptography & information security, is an example of a celebrity that helped pull in other top cryptographic experts, where curiosity in cryptocurrency has led to increased competition for skills. Okamoto, a fellow of NTT R&D since 1999, is known worldwide as a core expert on cryptocurrency block-chain technology.
According to Kei Karasawa, vice president of corporate strategy for NTT Research, the talent NTT is gathering focuses on cryptography, quantum computing and medical informatics in a bet that these fields can yield breakthroughs on a horizon of five years or more.
The laboratory also needs big-name scientists because high pay alone is not enough for most top researchers, Karasawa said. Scientists strongly prefer to work in their field with leaders, he said.
Also, NTT’s pay is not in all fields at the top of the range. Business Insider revealed that Oracle Corp., the technology maker trying to overtake Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. in cloud computing, proposed a $6 million pay package to recruit a single artificial intelligence specialist. And while $1 million a year overshadow the salaries of many IT workers, it’s far less than what most of NTT’s multinational corporations’ chief executives are doing.
That too is a contrast to Japan, where the average CEO pay at top companies is less than $1 million, compared to more than ten times that for a big company’s average U.S. boss.
NTT is pressing for overseas expansion while predicting a 13 per cent drop in net income for this fiscal year at NTT Docomo Inc. after a 16 per cent decline in the previous year. NTT said it was building a global provider of technology and services by combining the capabilities of 28 of its companies, including NTT Communications Corp., Dimension Data Holdings PLC and NTT Security Corp. The goal is to create a top 5 global provider of technology and business solutions with a revenue of $20 billion outside Japan, Sawada said at the time.
Cryptography, the science of privacy encoding and decoding data, is essential to the security of the internet and plays a role in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, two red-hot research and development areas. Quantum computing, which utilises properties of quantum mechanics to speed up storage, has the potential to help discover new medicines and enhance the algorithms which form industrial logistics and supply chains.
The third area, clinical informatics, offers an opportunity to use powerful computational technology to map molecules so that scientists can better understand and counter viruses.