Posted by: Chris | 25/03/2014

CTOs Come to Switzerland for Inaugural Event to Discuss the Business of R&D

CTOOn March 6 and 7, the IBM Zurich lab hosted a unique event with a distinguished group of CTOs and R&D executives from 23 companies across 10 countries. We called it the Rüschlikon Dialogue, named for the small leafy Swiss village where IBM Research – Zurich has been based since 1963. It gave us the chance to open a dialogue with colleagues from a variety of different industries to talk about how R&D will be impacted by Big Data, cognitive computing, computer simulation, and an emerging millennial workforce.

To put these topics into a broader perspective, I started off the event with a keynote presentation about R&D 2020 over dinner with the goal to demonstrate how we apply these technologies internally to our own R&D and to share lessons learned. For example, to address our changing workforce, IBM has been using a crowd sourcing approach to innovation.

On the second day, we continued the dialogue with interactive sessions. After short keynotes and lively Q&A discussions on The future of collaboration, Smart Analytics and Simulation, the rest of the day was dedicated to technology demos and breakout sessions in small groups on Big Data, analytics/cognitive, simulation and social business/Millennials. These so-called “THINK labs” really got the CTOs involved and engaged to share their current practices and visions. I think the following statement captures some fundamental insights that were shared by all attendees.

“I actually like the topics [of the event] in combination with each other, because they will have a very interesting interaction. But if I have to decide at what I will look at first tomorrow, it will be advanced analytics and then advanced simulation. I think, the whole idea that data is the new oil will probably revolutionize all industries and each industry has to identify the impact on them, ” said one CTO from a Dutch based consultancy.

To demonstrate how computers can be creative we asked IBM Watson to concoct a welcome cocktail.

To demonstrate how computers can be creative we asked IBM Watson to concoct a welcome cocktail.

Many CTOs were impressed by the capabilities of IBM Crystal+, a tool developed at the Zurich Lab designed to be a true big data analytics platform for enterprise use. In a live technology demonstration, IBM scientist Abdel Labbi showed how Crystal+ in real-time aggregates many different data sources, including enterprise data and data streams from social networks, news channels, etc., and combines them with analytic engines to get an entity-centric view of the data. In his prototype, customers of an organization are the entity, and the tool extracts and aggregates all relevant data about each customer on one dashboard.

Alessandro Curioni, who heads our Cognitive Computing and Computational Sciences Department, made the point that computational science today can guide experimental R&D. In the coming decade, progress in high performance computing will enable companies to start from the laws of nature and address/tackle research problems that would not otherwise be solvable in realistic and economical time frames. The problems that can be addressed can comprise materials science, energy technologies, healthcare and pharmaceuticals or nanotechnology, just to name a few.

One interesting point that I also took away from the feedback was that the role of the CTO or VP of R&D is not particularly catered to by most conference organizers. CEOs, CIOs, CMOs have a steady stream of invites for events, but interestingly executives in the R&D role tend to be ignored. For this reason we have decided to continue the Ruschlikon Dialogue next year. If you would like to be invited or would like to join our discussion in LinkedIn please let me know.



  1. How did Watson’s cocktail taste? 🙂

    • It was a big success. The hotel informed us that it was the first time that it completely sold out of a drink for a special event.

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