IBMs R&D Work as One

IBM's director of research claims the company has mastered a system that enables researchers and product teams to work together.

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y.—It takes more than innovation to get ideas from an initial thought to a finished product, and IBM has mastered that transition; so said the head of the companys research division Monday.

"Invention is not enough. You need a mechanism to get it out to market," said Paul Horn, IBMs senior vice president and director of research.

Horn, who spoke at a joint IBM Research and IBM Software Group event at the headquarters of IBM Research here, said IBM has perfected a technology transfer system that enables the companys researchers and product teams to work together to define, design, build and test new technology together.

"If you work at the T.J. Watson labs, you have to be ready to be part of a development team, not just a research team," Horn said.

"We have to have a team to define the technology and then build and take it to the market," he added.

While IBMs research is centrally funded, the companys focus on pairing research with product development is unique, Horn said.

In competing companies, "were seeing a return to the old bankrupt approach to research," where research is left alone to develop technology with no formal mechanism to transfer it to product form, Horn said.

However, "all IBMs products and software start as a joint effort between IBM Research and IBMs product divisions," Horn said. The next generations of DB2 and of WebSphere will be joint research and product development efforts, he said.

Horn added that IBM is beginning to focus a lot more on "service-based research." IBM "has a huge services business, so were going to be one of the leaders in getting our researchers involved in the services business. You have to do research with the product guys and actually do some of the development … the same thing is true for services. We have to get our researchers in the marketplace, actually doing services with our services guys, because its the services guys who are the early users of this [research] stuff."

IBM develops several of what it calls First Of A Kind (FOAK) technologies that it uses on services engagements.

One such FOAK technology is called Web Fountain, which Horn called "Google on steroids. It goes out on the Net, crawls around, reads the text, understands the text and will tell you whats in the text."

"WebSphere and DB2 are two huge pillars of IBM software, and much of what we do came out of FOAKs," said Don Ferguson, IBM fellow and chief architect of the IBM Software Group.