The innovation jam is a worldwide brainstorming session via intranet
Research in Switzerland, ICT and avatars – Dr. Matthias Kaiserswerth explains why IBM chose Zurich as a research location over 50 years ago and how ICT affected his line of work.
IBM has had a research laboratory in Rüschlikon since 1956. Do you know why this little village on the lake of Zurich was chosen?
IBM chose Switzerland and Zurich as location for its European Research Lab for several reasons:
- closeness to leading universities
- attractive location with high standard of living for top talent from all over Europe
- central location in Europe with excellent infrastructure
- politically stable country in post-war Europe
There was no special reason for choosing Rüschlikon; IBM was able to purchase real estate suitable for building a lab, and also offering the potential of future growth.
In the meantime many international high-tech companies – especially in the past couple of years – have moved their headquarters to Switzerland. What makes Switzerland so attractive?
- attractive location with a high standard of living for top talent from all over Europe
- political climate, which is very conducive for innovation
- working laws that enable the necessary flexibility to satisfy business needs
You are responsible for the coordination of the eight global research laboratories of IBM (regarding risk and compliance). To what extent is the geographical localization of a facility relevant in the day and age of broadband connections, video conferences etc.?
It’s relevant in several respects:
- Research today is not done in isolation; complex problems require collaborative efforts: local labs facilitate becoming part of the local research networks. For example, being in Europe allows the Zurich lab to participate in research collaborations within framework program of EU (ZRL is partner in more than 20 collaborations)
- easier to tap into local top talent
- as we work more and more directly with clients, it is crucial to be where the clients are and to understand their problems not only an a global but also on a local scale
- allows deeper insights in local economic challenges and facilitates the development of innovations for these markets
In Rüschlikon you are working with prize winning scientists and Nobel laureates. Just in September Tobias Kraus received an award from the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Optik und Mikroskopie (SSOM) for his work. Is there a difference between an "average" scientific work day and working in your laboratory?
At the Zurich Lab, we strive to provide an outstanding working environment and ensure that the Lab is a pleasant, healthy, and inspiring place to work. Our researchers contribute their passion and ideas, and we aim to provide them with optimal resources and the creative freedom they need. We attach great value to the views, ideas and morale of our employee, and foster an open and honest feedback culture. In such a culture of mutual respect, trust and confidence, great results are achieved.
You said that ICT has fundamentally changed the innovation process. Could you tell us more about that?
Today’s problems are often complex and need collaborative efforts to be solved. ICT makes open innovation possible – transcending the borders of space and time. Let me illustrate this with two examples, which enable open innovation: open source software and new collaboration tools such as the innovation jam. The innovation jam is a worldwide brainstorming session via intranet and internet that allows ten thousands of people to create innovative ideas together.
What do you consider one of the most important scientific break-throughs of the last decade and why?
The development of the web browser - it changed the way we interact with information, and it allowed everybody to access the WWW. In a way, you could say, it opened up the world to everybody.
Just recently the IBM laboratories unveiled a 3D avatar that will help doctors visualize medical records. Are avatars like these going to be our virtual companions?
Three-dimensional representations are going to play an important role in various respects. They can be a simple but highly effective visualization tool, like the 3D ASME avatar that supports doctors in their diagnosis and facilitates the dialogue with the patient – it acts like Google earth for the body.
Other avatars, for example in virtual worlds like Second Life will represent not only our physical body but also our personality.
You will be giving a speech at the third European Futurists Conference Lucerne. What are we going to here in «Innovations of the Future»?
My talk will focus on three topics:
- innovations of the future are based on collaborative efforts
- jams as a promising tool for global brainstorming sessions and open innovation
- examples of research projects that illustrate innovation for society, such as project big green and the zero emission datacenter.
Matthias Kaiserswerth is the director of IBM Zurich Research Laboratory. In addition he leads the global IBM research strategy in systems management, security and privacy across IBM's 8 research laboratories.
Other than a brief (3.5 year) excursion into sales, where he was the key account manager for a large global IBM client, he has spent his entire professional career in IBM Research, where he worked on various networking and security research projects.
Dr. Kaiserswerth received his MSc and PhD in Computer Science from McGill University in Montreal, Canada and from Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany respectively. He is an honorary professor at Friedrich-Alexander University where he teaches applied computer science.
Dr. Matthias Kaiserswerth, Director IBM Research Zurich
Keynote Speaker «Innovations for the Society of the Future»,
Culture and Convention Centre KKL, Lucerne, Switzerland
November 21, 2007; 09.10 h