With an eye on China's large pool of software developers and growing economic significance, SAP plans to more than triple the staff at its R&D facility in Shanghai by 2008, a company spokesman said Monday.The plan is to increase staff at SAP Labs China to 1,800 from more than 400 today, according to SAP spokesman Frank Hartmann. "Business in China is good, but this isn't the only reason we're expanding there," Hartmann said. "China has meanwhile become an important link in our distributed product development network."Launched in November 2003, SAP Labs China has grown beyond being a localization facility serving Chinese customers to one of SAP's key global development centers, according to Hartmann. The facility, which relocated to a larger building last week, focuses on software for small and midsize businesses (SMB) in Asia, Europe and North America, he said. One of its recent developments is the toolkit for the SAP Safe Passage migration program for companies running Oracle's PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards applications.Of the 6,000 people SAP currently employs in Asia, more than 1,000 are in China, including the staff at the Shanghai lab, according to Hartmann.Over the next two years, the Walldorf, Germany, vendor plans to invest between \u20ac80 million ($96 million) and \u20ac100 million in China, he said.In addition to Shanghai, SAP operates labs in Tokyo (Japan), Bangalore (India), Ra'anana (Israel), Sophia Antipolis (France), Sofia (Bulgaria), Budapest (Hungary), Walldorf (Germany) and Palo Alto (California).The labs are at the heart of SAP's product development efforts, responsible for researching and creating new applications.SAP also operates a global network of research centers and "campus-based engineering centers," which focus primarily on identifying new trends and developing new technologies relevant to the company's target markets.Currently, the network consists of research and engineering centers in Brisbane (Australia), Montreal (Canada), Sophia Antipolis (France), Walldorf, Darmstadt, Dresden and Karlsruhe (Germany), Pretoria (South Africa), Belfast (Northern Ireland) and Palo Alto (California).