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Hewlett-Packard, the world’s biggest IT company, on Wednesday appointed a Chicago software engineer to head its research and development arm, ending a months-long search.

Prith Banerjee, dean of the college of engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will take over as head of HP Labs on August 1. He will replace Richard Lampman, a 35-year HP veteran who announced his retirement last year.

The appointment of Mr Banerjee, who in addition to his academic career has also launched two startups, reflects HP’s shifting research priorities.

The company, which spends $3.6bn a year on research both inside HP labs and inside the company’s other business units, has said it intends to spend less money on basic research, focusing instead on solving more practical problems than can lead to new sales growth.

Shane Robison, HP’s chief strategy officer, said Mr Banerjee’s background in academics and entrepeneurship made him an “oustanding choice to lead HP labs.”

In 2000, Mr Banerjee founded AccelChip, a specialty software company that sold to Xilinx, a chipmaker, last year. In 2004 he started Binachip, another software group.

Mr Banerjee will lead a team of HP scientists working in labs in California, India, China, England, Israel, Russia and Japan.

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