HP is recruiting researchers to tackle fundamental problems in information management at a new laboratory in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The company's senior vice president of research, Richard Lampman, is expected to visit St. Petersburg today to announce the company's plans for the lab, its third new research facility in five years.

About half of Russian students choose to study mathematics or science. "It's important for us to be where that talent is," said Beth Keer, director of the Information Services and Process Innovation Lab at HP Labs.

The lab will focus on information management because: "There's a lot of need to do additional database research. In data mining, and in unstructured data, there are challenges in understanding what you have got," she said.

As an example of the kind of project the new lab might work on, Keer spoke of a tool developed by HP researchers in California that can extract information from text files written by support staff as they deal with customer problems. By analysing the files and compiling information from many support incidents, the tool can "identify early problems with a particular manufacturing run of a particular product in a particular geography," she said.

Keer will supervise the Russian lab, and will act as its director until one is appointed. HP began advertising that post on 5 December, looking for someone experienced in areas such as scalable databases, information lifecycle management, storage and data management, web services, service-oriented architectures, business process management or workflow. The search is still going on: "We are actively looking at resumés," Keer said.

In addition to the director, the company is also recruiting senior research engineers, research engineers and research associates for the St. Petersburg lab, and will ultimately employ around 25 there. Staff numbers will be augmented by post-doctoral students, internships and contractors, Keer said.

The company's largest lab, in Palo Alto, California, employs around 350, she said. The other labs are in Bristol, UK; Haifa, Israel; Tokyo, Japan; Bangalore, India; and Beijing, China.

The St. Petersburg lab could be the last one Lampman opens for HP: last December, he announced his intention to retire some time this year, after 35 years with the company. He has directed the labs since 1999. Keer said the company is actively seeking a replacement and "Lampman is still very much engaged." Lampman has agreed to stay on to assist with the transition to a new director.