Enlightened self-interest drives collaboration


Great minds, it is said, think alike. And when they start to work together, the results are often quite amazing. For the past few years, collaboration between technology companies and universities has been bringing some sharp minds together.

Alliances aimed at developing and deploying innovative technologies have been forged in different ways and for different reasons.

Champions of such coalitions of convenience – on the industry side –include Brampton, Ont.-based Nortel Networks and IBM Canada.

While Nortel usually participates in research by offering its telecommunications expertise, Markham, Ont.-based IBM Canada provides funds and know-how to university projects. For instance, IBM has been collaborating with provincial governments and universities to set up centers for advanced studies (CAS) in Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton. Research at these centers is jointly conducted by students, professors and CAS lab members on topics ranging from machine intelligence to nanotechnology.

IBM’s motive for backing this venture is not purely altruistic. The company usually chooses projects that can improve its existing products and technologies. The research underway at the University of Alberta, for example, focuses on autonomic computing that makes computer systems self-reliant and less dependent on human intervention, a key interest area for IBM.

However, industry-relevant research topic is not the only standard for choosing projects. “Besides taking note of the merit of a project vis-

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