The Changing Nature of Research and Innovation in the 21st Century


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Seriesberger

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, PhD
Chairman Emeritus, IBM Academy of Technology, Visiting Lecturer of Engineering Systems

Date: May 23, 2011

About the Presentation

Over the past century, science and technology have been successfully applied to innovation in the industrial sector of the economy, leading to very high productivity and quality, and to the development of highly sophisticated and complex objects like airplanes, skyscrapers and microprocessors. The 21st century defines a new set of challenges, especially in the complexity of the systems we are now developing in all kinds of industries, including energy, health care, financial services and urban systems.

It is critical to once more leverage technology, science and innovation to address these challenges and make major improvements in the productivity and quality of these highly complex systems, including services, organizations and the very way the world works. Continuing advances in digital technologies promise to be as pivotal to the 21st century as steam power was to the industrial revolution, leading to an information and services driven economy which is changing the focus, design objectives and the methods by which the world innovates to meet global challenges.

The presentation will explore the key differences between “classic” industrial sector innovation and innovation in this emerging information and services economy, as well as the growing technical capabilities and business opportunities for organizations that embrace these new modes of innovation.

About the Speaker

Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger retired from IBM in 2007 after 37 years with the company. As chairman emeritus, IBM Academy of Technology, he continues to participate in a number of IBM’s technical strategy and innovation initiatives. He is also visiting lecturer of engineering systems at MIT, where he is involved in multidisciplinary research and teaching activities focused on how information technologies are helping transform business organizations and the institutions of society.

At IBM he was responsible for identifying emerging technologies and marketplace developments critical to the future of the IT industry, and organizing appropriate activities in and outside IBM in order to capitalize on them. He was also responsible for IBM’s university relations office and for the IBM Academy of Technology where he served as chairman of the Board of Governors. In 1996, he led the effort to formulate IBM’s Internet strategy and to develop and bring to market leading-edge Internet technologies that could be integrated into IBM’s mainstream business. He subsequently led a number of companywide initiatives like Linux, Grid Computing and the On Demand Business initiative.

He began his IBM career in 1970 at the company’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he started technology transfer programs to move the innovations of computer science from IBM’s research labs into its product divisions. After joining IBM’s product development organization in 1985, he continued his efforts to bring advanced technologies to the marketplace, leading IBM’s initiatives in supercomputing and parallel computing, including the transformation of IBM’s large commercial systems to parallel architectures. He has managed a number of IBM’s businesses, including the large systems software and the UNIX systems divisions.

Dr. Wladawsky-Berger is adjunct professor in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the Imperial College Business School. He is a member of BP’s Technology Advisory Council, the Visiting Committee for the Physical Sciences Division at the University of Chicago and the Board of Visitors for the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. He was co-chair of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, as well as a founding member of the Computer Sciences and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council. He is a former member of the University of Chicago Board of Governors for Argonne National Laboratories and of the Board of Overseers for Fermilab. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A native of Cuba, he was named the 2001 Hispanic Engineer of the Year.

Dr. Wladawsky-Berger received an MS and a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.