IBM Research Expands Into South Africa

IBM announced it is opening a new research lab in Johannesburg in April; Big Blue also opened a new digital sales center in Egypt.

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IBM continues to extend its reach in Africa, today announcing plans to expand IBM Research-Africa with a new laboratory in Johannesburg.

The IBM Research news comes just days after Big Blue launched a new IBM Middle East and Africa Digital Sales Center in Cairo. IBM's new Johannesburg research laboratory will open in April 2015 and will focus on advancing big data, cloud and mobile technologies to support South Africa's national priorities, drive skills development and foster economic growth.

"IBM considers two factors when deciding where to place research labs: access to world-class skills and talent and the ability to work on pressing business and societal challenges that can be best addressed through advanced information technology," Dr. John E. Kelly III, senior vice president of IBM Solutions Portfolio and Research, said in a statement. "South Africa provides an exciting backdrop as we look to expand our research efforts in the region. Our Africa-based researchers are part of a global community of IBM scientists who are forging the future of our company and ensuring that we remain at the forefront of scientific discovery."

As part of a 10-year investment program through the Department of Trade and Industry and working closely with the Department of Science and Technology, the new research facility will be based at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).

"South Africa is amongst the most technologically and scientifically advanced countries in the world," Naledi Pandor, South Africa's minister of science and technology, said in a statement. "However, it is essential to increase research and development activities in order to foster innovation and support the further diversification of the economy. We welcome IBM Research to South Africa and offer our very best scientific talent to ensure its long-term success."

IBM's South Africa researchers will partner with local universities, research institutions, start-ups and government agencies. The company has already struck up agreements with Wits University, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to collaborate on research programs and skills development.

"The development of a successful innovation ecosystem is crucial to the further development of the South African economy and the country's international competitiveness," said Professor Adam Habib, vice chancellor and principal at Wits University, in a statement. "IBM Research's decision to locate in Johannesburg will give a huge boost to a dynamic community of programmers, designers, developers, entrepreneurs and startups."

The new lab will be located in the Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, an inner-city area that is re-emerging as a vibrant area of Johannesburg. The new South Africa research team will be led by Dr. Solomon Assefa, formerly a research scientist at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

The South Africa lab's focus areas will include digital urban renewal, the transformation of health care and focusing on big data for science. IBM said the lab's inner-city location will allow IBM's new researchers to become part of a 'living lab' that will employ advanced digital technologies and big data analytics in urban renewal strategies. IBM's researchers and partner organizations will develop solutions using computational modeling, Internet of things and cognitive systems to engage with citizens and help revitalize inner-city areas in South Africa and around the world.