Conference Report 2015 - IBM Site Visit

Dr Karen Lewis, Associate Director, Innovation, BBSRC,  and member of PraxisUnico's Board and Conference Committee (pictured) reports back from the IBM site visit, hosted by Noel Crawford, Ireland – IBM Innovation Centre & ISV Developer Relation Manager.

On a glorious afternoon, a group of us were fortunate to visit the IBM site in Dublin. We started our visit in the IBM Innovation Centre, hearing form our host Noel Crawford about the history of the site, and how it has developed from a manufacturing facility to the technology campus it is today.

The IBM Innovation Centre is one of a number worldwide that contributes to supporting the company’s engagement with a range of partners to accelerate innovation and help address global challenges. This includes for example the Smarter Cities Initiative, which recognises that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban environments, many in mega cities with vast populations and complex infrastructure.

Addressing the challenges that arise from this will require ecosystem approaches to harness new technology and deliver innovation in areas such as transport and personal safety. We discussed how IBM’s Watson™(a cloud based cognitive system), is enabling new approaches in areas such as medical research, but also competing on ‘Jeopardy’, and creating novel recipes. Many of us were aware of IBM’s relationships with large corporate clients, but the focus of our visit was the approach that IBM is taking to working with start-ups through the IBM Global Entrepreneur programme. This enables early stage companies to access IBM software products; cloud credits; expertise, and business partners.

IBM does not take equity in the companies, nor get involved in management, with payments once sales are made. The Innovation Centre also provides physical space for business partners to meet and demonstrate their products. The site is vast and we only had time to look around some small aspects, however, we did get a flavour of the highly skilled and innovative environment that characterises the site, including the vast digital sales centre with hundreds of people and circulating white noise.

The take home message was that IBM is very open to partnerships, including with academic organisations and emerging companies.