Delphi Corporation has broken ground for its first R&D centre in China.

The wholly owned entity, called the China Technical Centre is expected to open in June 2005, and initially employ about 500 engineers, scientists and technicians.

Delphi announced last December it would open the centre in Shanghai to develop components and support application and systems engineering for several local customers and transplant automakers in the country, in addition to global customers.

Delphi chief executive JT Battenberg said: "The [technical centre] marks a significant milestone for us. It represents an important strategic move in China -- building world-class R&D capabilities to complement our extensive manufacturing presence."

Delphi's involvement in China dates back to 1993, in anticipation of growth in the Chinese automotive market. It claims to be the leading foreign invested component and integrated systems supplier in the country with 14 facilities. With the technical centre, the firm's total investment in China will be about $US500 million.

"China offers not only a growing market but an excellent talent pool," said Delphi vice chairman Donald Runkle. "Upon completion of the final phase in 2009, in time for Shanghai's World Expo in 2010, we plan to have approximately 1,400 engineers, scientists and supporting staff who will support application and systems engineering."