I live and run a business in Silicon Valley ( http://augmentedpixels.com – SLAM and CV for Robots and AR / VR, est. 2011), but since 2012 I spend a part of my time to the systematic development of CV / ML in Eastern Europe:
– Since 2014 I have been holding a conference on Computer Vision and Machine Learning that gathers the largest community of CV/ML Researchers and Engineers (more than 1700) – EECVC (web – http://eecvc.com);
– With a group of activists we popularize CV/ML specialties, including active work on the opening of labs and majors in universities (MSc of computer vision, etc.).
– I manage a stealth community of angel investors from the United States interested in investing in CM / ML startups and cooperate with R&D centers in Eastern Europe;
After Amazon’s acquisition of Ring for 1 billion dollars with R&D office in Eastern Europe, the interest in opening R&D centers in this region rose significantly – everyone is impressed by the fact that Ring Labs could grow from 10 people to 500 (!!!!) in 2 years, which is almost impossible to do in Silicon Valley with the same level of new employees.
On similar subjects I am holding a lot of meetings with different companies from California.
Some interesting facts and nuances about R&D in Eastern Europe you can found below:
1. The quality of life for CV / ML specialists in Eastern Europe is higher than in California
In general, the standard of living in California is certainly higher than in Eastern Europe, but the income level of CV / ML researchers and engineers in California is average or below average, while in Eastern Europe, researchers and Engineers fall into the top 10% tier of the most paid professionals, so the standard of living standards and purchasing power of the majority of CV/ML specialists in Eastern Europe is higher than in California, therefore moving to California can be considered as “downshifting”: =).
Therefore CV / ML researchers are interested in staying long term in Eastern Europe.
2. Outsourcing companies and R&D Centers of “old corporations” are still domination among employers in Eastern Europe
The list of possible employers for CV / ML specialists in Eastern Europe full of outsourcing companies and R&D centers of the large “old” international corporations.
On the one hand, thanks to this, researchers and engineers have the opportunity after the university to work and improve their knowledge, but the system of motivation and leadership in such companies usually is far from perfect.
Low level of leadership and uninteresting tasks are usually the key factors when in comes to quitting in such a “hot” sphere as CV / ML.
3. Bachelor’s degree in STEM is better in Eastern Europe, Master’s and PhD are more promising in the USA
Historically, STEM education in secondary schools and universities combined with a more balanced standard of living allows Eastern Europe to be the best place to receive a bachelor’s degree in CV / ML.
In order to get a Master’s or a PhD degree, the best students prefer to move to the USA. One of the reasons is the future career considerations – presence of a diploma from a well-known American university opens up the opportunity to be quickly hired in international companies such as Google, Microsoft, as well as guarantees the simplified visa process in the United States.
4. China actively competes for the technologies of Eastern Europe
Chinese companies, after exacerbating relations with the US and blocking the transfer of technology from the US to China, switched their focus from the US to Eastern Europe, looking for technology to purchase and for a place to establish R&D centers.
The scientific centers of Eastern Europe are “hungry” for normal financing, so gladly take up such projects.
There are even cases when a Chinese company buys out entire research labs and transports them to China with all the employees and their families.
But cultural differences and environmental problems still deter the majority of great specialists in the CV / ML from moving to China.
Summing up, I would like to note that in general, the success of R & D centers opened in Eastern Europe is mainly due to the given interesting tasks and the quality of local management / leadership, and not due to the salary competition or a “long stable company history in the last 200 years”.
There are a lot of cool CV/ML brains in Eastern Europe, but very few ambitious projects, e.g. “let’s fly to Mars”: =)
I hope that my projects for the development of the CV / ML ecosystem in Eastern Europe, as well as the overall increase in demand for CV / ML in the world, will significantly improve the situation with the lack of ambitious projects in Eastern Europe!
v @ vactivity.com