IBM: tech giant's new R&D centre gives Ontario a big competitive advantage
Scientific researchers the world over face the same challenge: how to use the mountains of data they collect to advance discovery.
Thanks to a new IBM Canada Research and Development Centre, scientists across Ontario will soon have access to advanced cloud computing infrastructure and the most powerful supercomputers and analytics software available today.
With it, they will be able to tackle many of the most pressing issues facing humankind in the 21st century, from disease control and climate prediction to urban growth and water pollution.
Brainpower drives R&D and Ontario has become a magnet for top researchers from around the world, attracted by our generous funding programs, excellent lab facilities and opportunities to work on leading-edge projects in fields that include biotech, aerospace, agri-food, chemicals, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, precision manufacturing, telecommunications and software design.
At the new IBM centre, Ontario researchers at the universities of Toronto, Western Ontario, McMaster, Queen's, Ottawa, Waterloo and the Ontario Institute of Technology will focus on four specific areas: health care, water conservation and management, energy use and aging urban infrastructure.
IBM and Ontario collaborate to accelerate scientific discovery and position Ontario as a leader in the new economy.
Why did IBM choose Ontario for this one-of-a-kind cutting-edge research and development centre?
"To start with, these are areas of great research strength in Ontario. That was key to our decision," says Pat Horgan, vice president of manufacturing, development and ops for IBM Canada and one of the driving forces behind the $210 million project in which IBM is investing $175 million. The government of Ontario is contributing $15 million and the government of Canada $20 million.
Clinching the deal for IBM were Ontario's highly collaborative research environment, strength in analytics software development and strong government support, says Horgan.
"Over the years, we've made a significant investment in Ontario," he says, pointing out that the company's software lab, headquartered in Markham, is home to the largest team of IBM software professionals outside the U.S. and seen as the company's centre for analytics software development. "This builds on it."
Like other leading ICT companies that have operations in the province, IBM was drawn to Ontario by its exceptional workforce, robust and open R&D environment, generous R&D tax incentives, low business taxes and a quality of life that attracts and keeps top global talent.
"Our goal for Ontario, like the government's, is to be a leader in the new economy," says Horgan, "and this will help us to accomplish that."
For Ontario's researchers the timing couldn't be better.
"To have this leg-up at this critical juncture is really exciting," says University of Western Ontario computer scientist Mark Daley, whose research in neuroscience and modeling the brain will benefit tremendously from the new capability. "This will help to make us world leaders in many disciplines by enabling us to make sense of the vast amounts of data we're generating."
University of Western Ontario computer scientist Mark Daley is one of thousands of Ontario researchers who will use the new tools to bring order to the deluge of data he collects.
The data the scientists will be analyzing already sits – and is growing 24 hours a day every day – in electronic files in myriad locations including governments, hospitals, pharmacies, universities, energy distributors and conservation authorities.
As Daley explains, "For centuries scientists worked in the lab or field to gather a little bit of data which they then had a lot of time to analyze. We've got the exact opposite problem now.
"We're collecting massive amounts of data to the point where it's overwhelming. We can't make sense of it – we can't find the bits that are relevant – without this kind of supercomputing and analytics power. Thanks to the tools IBM is providing we'll be able to accelerate discovery in so many critical areas."
IBM has been doing business in Ontario for 95 years. The company employs thousands of software developers at its state-of-the-art software laboratories in Markham and Ottawa, and invests more than $500 million in R&D each year.
For more on IBM Canada see http://www.ibm.com/ca/en/.
Ontario is not only a hot spot for R&D, it is the third largest ICT cluster in North America, with 184,000 people working at more than 1600 firms that generate revenues of $75 billion + a year. It includes leaders in every sector: software and systems, wireless and telecommunications, microelectronics, digital media, animation and special effects, e-health, security software and green IT.