40 years of breakthroughs in Haifa, Israel

Editor’s note: This article is by Oded Cohn, director of IBM Research – Haifa.

It may seem obvious that IBM would have such a large research center in Israel – especially today when almost every major global technology company has a research and development presence in Israel. But this definitely wasn't the case 40 years ago. Back in 1972, when the late Josef Raviv established the IBM Scientific Center in Israel, it was a matter of inspiration and real pioneering spirit. IBM opened the research center for the same reason many hi-tech companies are opening up branches in Israel today: local talent and brain power.

IBM's Research Lab in Haifa holds a unique position among Israeli hi-tech companies. On the one hand, we have great value in being technology leaders, but by virtue of our role in a global company, we have always had a vision that connects our lab's work to the worldwide markets. We are situated in a location that enables us to work with partners in the US, Europe and Asia. By sitting in the middle (of the Eastern hemisphere), we are accessible geographically and when it comes to time zones. With this, we look forward to working closely with IBM's newly announced lab in Kenya's emerging market.

Who we are

Israel has the world’s highest number of scientists and scientific publications, per capita.

Israel has the world's highest number of scientists per capita at 135 scientists for every 100,000 workers. This year’s World Economic Forum report also ranked the quality of Israel’s research universities number one. And the country also has the highest number of startups outside Silicon Valley – in a geographical area roughly the same size as Silicon Valley.

The Israeli culture embraces open collaboration to communicate new ideas, which helps make our lab a focal center where people with common interests – whether venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, academics, or researchers – can meet at our leadership seminars or other conferences.

Researchers at the Haifa lab work on technologies such as cloud computing, object storage, and analytics – and translating them into solutions that solve real life problems. Just this year, we delivered a clinical genomics platform that will help physicians in Italy identify better treatments for cancer patients; invented an augmented reality application for mobile devices to help shoppers identify their preferred products in retail stores; and reduced the amount of leaks and burst pipes in the water distribution network of California’s Sonoma County.

Looking forward

We've accomplished so much over the past 40 years. But the fast pace of change presents a growing number of opportunities for us: for example, working on a new partnership with the Israeli mobile team at Worklight, which IBM recently acquired. This collaboration gave rise to a new mobile platform that is helping companies develop, manage, and secure mobile apps being used by employees at work.
Although mobile devices represent a terrific new convenience for finding the nearest restaurant or avoiding traffic jams, mobile also has the potential to transform many industries. Enterprises will soon manage their business processes in completely different ways and IBM is playing a major role in this transformation.

There are an infinite number of cool gadgets and fun apps that will give us a coupon or find the nearest taxi, but we also need technology to do the heavy lifting. Today, researchers in Haifa are working on innovations for smarter agriculture to help solve the looming crisis of world food supply, healthcare solutions for people in remote areas suffering from the lack of access to physicians or medication, and improvements to the water supply in developing countries.

By understanding the problems faced by other communities and helping find solutions to things like healthcare services, food, and education, we want to break down the barriers of different populations around the world.  I look forward to continuing our heritage of innovation and being part of these solutions over the next 40 years.

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