PARIS, February 18th 2014 — Rakuten, Inc., one of the world’s leading Internet service companies and owner of PriceMinister, today announced the opening of the Rakuten Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) in Paris – the first of its kind in Europe. The R.I.T. is a dedicated Research and Development (R&D) organisation within Rakuten, combining creativity and innovation with emerging technologies to fuel the growth of e-commerce around the world.
Globally, R.I.T. comprises of 40 employees in Tokyo and a further 10 in New York. R.I.T.’s Paris office will start with an additional five employees and, combined with Rakuten’s Big Data Group in Paris, will add a total of 20 new employees to the Paris office within 2014 The R.I.T. department is situated in the classical Haussmann building, alongside Rakuten’s PriceMinister office.
R.I.T. focuses its research on projects which will support the development of the global e-commerce industry; ultimately to provide e-retailers with innovations to grow their brands. With this in mind, the institute will commission projects to help revolutionise data analytics, fraud detection, language, recommendation systems, image processing, user interfaces, and the ‘online to offline’ transition in e-commerce.
Successes from R.I.T centres in other parts of the world include Rakuten Analytics Tracker – which tracks and stores every interaction between a user and Rakuten’s services, TOHO Recommendation Engine, which suggests products that a user may like to buy, and ROMA – an open source key value store, which has replaced expensive database solutions and reduces hardware requirements across Rakuten’s businesses.
Rakuten Europe’s COO Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet and Rakuten’s CEO,Hiroshi Mikitani are responsible for R.I.T.’s expansion into Europe. Laurent Ach, a specialist in CGI and user interfaces, will head up the team of engineers, joining Rakuten specifically to set up the institute. A pioneer in technological innovation, his previous roles and responsibilities include technical direction of research projects and software development in the domain of telecoms, computer graphics, avatars and virtual assistants.
“From the Micral N, the world’s first personal computer, to the emergence of CG technology, France and Europe have developed world-leading culture, business and technology, and the number of qualified engineers and developers in France and Europe-wide is a real asset. Opening an R&D centre in Paris makes perfect sense for Rakuten, and is a fitting acknowledgement of the Group’s success in France and across Europe,” said Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet, Chief Operations Officer of Rakuten Europe.
Laurent Ach, Director of the Rakuten Technology Institute in Paris, commented: “Rakuten’s business covers a wide variety of fields including logistics, digital media payments and of course e-commerce. Innovation is fundamental when it comes to improving these services, and we want to be the company anticipating future uses for these types of technology. The R.I.T. prides itself on bringing together the best creative thinkers to revolutionise internet retailing and digital business.”
Ach continued: “The Paris team will be focusing on the links between bricks-and-mortar stores and online services in particular, as well as exploring new forms of digital interaction. Setting up our department alongside the Rakuten PriceMinister team should also present some opportunities for collaboration and we are looking forward to learning from them.”