20 biggest Silicon Valley companies that reported such
data. Intel topped the list at just over $10 billion -- the most in corporate America -- while Sanmina, a San Jose maker of optical electronics and mechanical products, spent the least -- about $22 million.
But as a percentage of revenue, HP's expenditure ranked third from the bottom, with only Apple and Sanmina lower.
Hewlett-Packard spokesman Michael Thacker questioned the relevance of comparing companies that way, insisting "innovation is alive and well at HP." He noted it obtained more than 1,300 patents in 2012 -- the most of any local company -- adding that Whitman is determined to turn what HP innovates into products more quickly.
Some industry experts also point out that HP gets more than a quarter of its revenue from the maintenance and other business-support services it provides its customers, which don't require big R&D investments. And HP has less need to invent technology today than it once did, they said, because it now often relies on what others develop, such as Intel's chips for its personal computers.
Like many chipmakers, Intel -- which devoted 19 percent of its revenue to R&D last year -- spends heavily so it can find ways to keep shrinking its circuits' components, while anticipating future uses for its chips.
"We have things going on in everything from traditional lower-power processors to things like robotics, visual computing, what we call the Internet-of-things, big data, you name it," said Sean Koehl, an Intel technology evangelist. "If it's related to computing, we have someone working on it."
Although a study last year by consultant Booz & Co. concluded "there is no long-term correlation between the amount of money a company spends on its innovation efforts and its overall financial performance," it said computer and electronics companies typically allocate 6.5 percent of their revenue to R&D.
Another study, in December, by research organization Battelle and R&D Magazine found research and development spending has surged in some other countries, particularly China. And it warned that "in our increasingly technology-dependent world, strong continued support of R&D investments is essential to maintain and grow a nation's economic strength."
Given the intense push in other parts of the world to develop groundbreaking products, more than 40 percent of the 668 industry technology specialists that corporate adviser KPMG recently surveyed said they considered it likely the center of tech innovation "would shift from Silicon Valley to another country in the next four years."
While other experts find that assessment unduly pessimistic, several said it was vital for companies here to keep pumping money into research and worried that HP has done too little of that.
"HP is not as competitive as they should be across a lot of their portfolio," said Baird Equity Research analyst Jayson Noland, "and that absolutely has some correlation to what they spend on R&D."
Contact Steve Johnson at 408-920-5043. Follow him at Twitter.com/steveatmercnews.
(c)2013 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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