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Chinese vendor ZTE has set up a US$15.5m venture capital fund targeting the IP smarts of its own employees.

The company is looking to mine the brains trust of its own 80,000-strong workforce in the search for technology solutions, business models and management processes to invest in as part of its ‘Innovative Fund’.

ZTE chairman Hou Weigui said “the creation of this endowment is intended to foster innovative ideas and projects. The fund is one way ZTE is taking action to create ground-breaking new telecommunications solutions.”

The VC fund intends to support new innovation and aims to create a testing ground for ideas that break with tradition.

Despite stiff competition from rivals such as Huawei, ZTE emerged as China’s number one holder of international patent applications last year. It achieved a global No2 ranking with 1,863 patent applications last year, up from its No23 position in 2009 with 1,346 applications.

"Mobilization of our employees as creators of ideas for investments for the fund is part our strategy to create bold new concepts and products in the telecom industry,” he added.

The move is part of a bold international expansion plan from the Chinese giant. Last week the vendor announced that it would team up with several global telecommunications giants to create 10 international innovation centers in South America and Europe located in markets including Spain, the UK , France and Germany.

The company also flagged plans to create local innovation centers in China through partnerships with the country’s largest telecommunications operators. In China, ZTE has established collaborative research institutes with four research institutes and 19 universities including Peking University and Tsinghua University. ®

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