“When I think about it now, it’s very seldom that you are going to be hired for something that doesn’t exist yet. The reason I wanted to be hired was I thought it was an interesting job — to start from nothing to build a research laboratory — its seldom that you get the opportunity to do this. I also had a rhythm to my work. I seem to have a rhythm of two years, so I thought, for the next two years it would be nice to do this job. But those two years become 34 years.”
Karsten Drangeid was the director of IBM Research – Zurich from 1971 – 1986 and he was one of the first employees of the lab in 1956. Listen to stories about how the lab was nearly was shut down in the early 1970s to receiving two consecutive Nobel Prizes in 1986 and 1987.embedded by Embedded Video
Earlier this week Stanislaw Tillich, the Minister President of Saxony, the tenth largest German state, visited IBM scientists in Zurich at the IBM Industry Solutions Lab. After meeting scientists and taking a tour of the recently opened Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center, he graciously spoke with A Smarter Planet blog.
You can read the interview in German below.
What was your impression of IBM prior to visiting IBM Research – Zurich today and how has it changed?
Tillich: Of course, I was already well familiar with IBM, though mainly as a computer manufacturer. Today, I got the impression that IBM is working on solutions which are critical for humanity and that are not only addressing hardware, or software — but society as a whole.
What topic was most interesting to you today and why?
Tillich: I took great interest in learning about trends and what we can expect to see in the future. I found it particularly interesting to hear about so-called “digital immigrants “and “digital natives”. The topic was both informative and valuable because it affects administrative processes in our society.
What are some of the biggest challenges in Saxony where IBM can help?
Tillich: First of all, Saxony is one of Germany’s so-called microelectronics clusters. We are researching and working on many questions similar to those pursued at IBM. Thus, we have a natural partnership and we are interested in expanding this partnership.
Secondly, an important challenge is how we manage the immense amount of data that we produce each and every day. How do we manage the sea of data whereby an individual only requires this one, particular piece of information?
Furthermore, how can we shape the processes in our society by interconnecting the world and — of course — by interconnecting operations? These are questions we discussed today and which we need to answer for our future in order to ensure that the planet we all live on remains livable.
This year IBM is celebrating its centennial anniversary. What does IBM mean to you personally?
Tillich: I view IBM not only as a company, but as an institution. An institution that — throughout its 100 years — has dealt successfully with future trends. At first, of course, in the field of computer technology, but also now with its focus on societal challenges and on interconnecting processes and systems. I believe that IBM is an organization that has the ability to foresee the trends for the next 5 to 15 years and therefore I am sure that IBM will continue to prosper and be successful for the next 100 years.
Mr. Minister President, thank you for speaking to IBM today.
Tillich: It was my pleasure.
Tillich: Zum einen habe ich IBM schon gekannt, vor allem natürlich als Computerhersteller. Heute habe ich den Eindruck gewonnen, dass man auch an Lösungen arbeitet, die für die Menschheit insgesamt wichtig sind. Also nicht nur an Fragen zur Hardware, nicht nur an Fragen zur Software, sondern auch an gesellschaftlichen und sozialen Lösungen.
Welches der heute diskutierten Themen war für Sie am Interessantesten? Könnten Sie kurz darauf eingehen, warum?
Tillich: Für mich war natürlich interessant, wo geht die Entwicklung hin? Was erwartet uns in der Zukunft? Und die Feststellung, die ich heute schon gehört habe: Dass es eine Generation gibt, die „Digital Immigrants“ und andere, die „Digital Natives“ sind. Das war für mich eine wichtige und gleichzeitig auch interessante Erfahrung, weil dies auch mit administrativen Vorgängen in der Gesellschaft zu tun hat.
Welche Herausforderungen, bei denen ein Unternehmen wie IBM zur Lösung beitragen kann, stehen für Sie mit Blick auf die Entwicklung des Freistaats Sachsen im Vordergrund?
Tillich: Sachsen ist eine der grossen Cluster in der Mikroelektronik. Wir forschen und arbeiten an verschiedenen Fragestellungen, die auch bei IBM versucht werden zu beantworten. Das heisst, wir haben eine natürliche Partnerschaft und interessieren uns natürlich auch am Ausbau dieser Partnerschaft.
Des Weiteren stellt sich natürlich die Frage: Wie gehe ich mit der Vielzahl der Daten um, die die Menschheit heute täglich produziert. Und wo der ein oder andere, diese eine spezielle Information braucht. Und zum anderen natürlich, wie gestalte ich die gesellschaftlichen Prozesse, in dem ich die Welt vernetze und auch die Aufgabenbewältigung stärker vernetze. Und das sind Fragen, die wir miteinander diskutiert haben und die natürlich für die Zukunft zu beantworten sind, um den Planeten nach wie vor — wie man so schön sagt — als einen schönen Planeten zu erleben.
IBM feiert in diesem Jahr ihr 100-jähriges Bestehen. Für was steht die IBM in Ihren Augen?
Tillich: Die IBM steht für mich für eine Institution — nicht nur für ein Unternehmen — welches sich als eine der wenigen über 100 Jahre erfolgreich immer mit Zukunftsfragen beschäftigt hat. Zuerst mit dem Computer und zum zweiten jetzt gerade auch mit der Forschung über soziale Themen, über die Vernetzung von verschiedenen Prozessen. Ich glaube, IBM ist ein Unternehmen, was auch in der Lage ist, in die Zukunft in die nächsten 5 – 10 – 15 Jahre zu blicken. Und damit bin ich mir relativ sicher, dass die IBM auch in den nächsten 100 Jahre von Bestand und erfolgreich sein wird.
Sehr geehrter Herr Ministerpräsident, vielen Dank für das kurze Gespräch.
Tillich: Bitte schön, sehr gern.
The Trotte Elder Residence is not your average retirement home. True to its motto “Rooms with a View,” Trotte boasts an enviable panorama of the city of Zurich and the snow-covered Alps from its coveted location on Waidberg in the Wipkingen quarter of town. Near the Limmat river and well served by public transportation, Trotte affords its elderly residents a lively and warm atmosphere in individual apartments.
One of Zurich’s 27 municipal elder residences, Trotte also offers a range of activities, events and excursions in addition to plenty of social contact in the common rooms, the café restaurant and the pretty garden area, where meals may be taken in fair weather.
Jonas Huber, IT Support Professional at the IBM Research – Zurich Laboratory, spent his Centennial Day of Service at the Trotte Elder Residence and reported his experience to w3.
Q. Jonas, how did you find out about the Trotte Elder Residence, and what made you decide to contribute your Day of Service there?
A. Well, actually, my mother has worked there as a nurse for ten years, and she suggested that I accompany a group of residents on an excursion to Zurich’s Botanical Garden. She took care of informing the Trotte residents about the excursion and making the necessary arrangements. So on the one hand, I thought it would be interesting to spend a pleasant afternoon accompanying elderly persons on a nice outing, and I also got a glimpse of my mother’s working environment. It’s a completely different world than at the Lab.
Q. That sounds interesting. Tell us how you spent the day at Trotte and the Botanical Garden.
A. I arrived at Trotte in the morning and met up with my mother and the excursion participants. Originally, ten residents had signed up for it, but in the end, only five actually participated. My mother had briefed me to expect this, because sometimes the elderly people aren’t feeling well enough for an excursion on any given day. Of the five participants, two were particularly young at heart and really enjoyed the outing.
Q. Wasn’t it difficult to find topics of common interest to talk about?
A. Not at all. Our conversations were very interesting. For example, my neighbor on the bus ride told me a lot about her life and the people or family members she had known. That really broke the ice. Some of the dialect expressions she used to describe these things were only vaguely familiar to me. It’s interesting just to hear the expressions they used.
Q. In a nutshell, what was your Day of Service contribution?
A. Well, I guess I could say I gave the gift of time. That’s something we younger generation sometimes no longer have a feeling for—slowing down, taking your time. We’re always so rushed. Young people can be very impatient when they encounter elderly people in everyday situations, such as on a bus or in a tram. Elderly people do everything so much more slowly, it can seem like they’re always in the way. But spending a day with elderly people made me conscious of the value—the charm—of slowing down. It’s the opposite of my usual environment. You know, I actually admired the elderly people for their slowness. And apart from that, it’s always enriching to get a glimpse of how other people live, other age groups, other social groups, whatever. We live in a global village, after all.
Check out IBM’s Day of Service Map.
Note to IBMers: Just because the Day of Service is over, doesn’t mean you can’t still support your charity. Sign up in the On Demand Community.
The spirit of openness
Would Einstein have formulated his seminal theories if he had accepted a position at a university instead of continuing to work at the patent office in Bern?
Be prepared to be challenged when entering a discussion about innovation with executive briefer Dieter Jaepel at the Industry Solutions Lab (ISL) – the place in the IBM Forum Centers network in Europe where clients can get in touch with IBM Research and explore the technology trends of the future and innovation. “As innovators we need to behave and think a little bit like science-fiction authors in order not to limit ourselves by the restrictions of our environment,” says Jaepel. Talking to Jaepel the computer scientist who originally trained as a physicist, it becomes clear that there is no easy route to innovation. It requires leaving one’s comfort zone, looking beyond the obvious – and it requires the vision, foresight and culture of doing so, the spirit of being open to change and the willingness to depart from conventional paths. “In today’s global, networked world, change is a constant, and this constantly challenges our ability to cope with change,” explains Jaepel.
What it takes to foster innovation is what Dieter Jaepel and his colleagues at the ISL discuss with IBM clients and partners in custom-tailored, expert-level workshops and briefings. “When we succeed in facilitating a discussion from expert to expert, it’s so much more dynamic,” Jaepel reports. “It results in a cross-pollination of ideas and this is when we see the spark of innovation.”
One of the ISL’s biggest events this year was the Smarter Switzerland Innovation Week in March, which brought together 200 clients and topical experts from the Swiss MEM sector, encompassing industries such as medtech, diagnostics, micromechanics and logistics as well as partners from academia and scientists from IBM Research. The initiative for the five-day, first-of-a-kind event originated with IBM Switzerland and Manufuture, a joint initiative of the mechanical, electrical and metallurgical manufacturing industries and partners from academia that supports activities to maintain and to strengthen Switzerland as a production place. Each of the five days was dedicated to a specific theme: novel materials, logistics, automation, microfabrication and IT in medtech. After discussing the Global Technology Outlook, experts from academia and industry gave insights into the latest developments in their respective fields. In the second part of each day, participants discussed challenges and opportunities for innovation in their various industries and formulated recommendations and visions.
The results of the event have now been outlined in a newly issued book entitled ”Switzerland 2011″.
Creating an ecosystem for innovation was one of the key conclusions. In fact, today’s technical developments have reached such a level of complexity that individual companies are no longer in a position to deal with many topics – such as in the fields of semiconductor technology, medicine, or energy management - with the necessary level of expertise and in a feasible amount of time. “Innovations have simply become too extensive for individual companies to manage on their own,” says Jaepel.
Nevertheless, the openness and sharing such an ecosystem would require was anathema to many participants, despite the broad consensus that collaboration is indeed a necessity. “We must endeavor to eliminate this reticence and skepticism between disciplines,” Jaepel believes. Or as the old adage goes, “Some secrets were meant to be shared.” Indeed, there is no easy route to openness … nor is there any way around it.