Beyond Guinness and rugby, Ireland’s capital city is home to two universities of global distinction, Trinity College and University College Dublin. And it is one of six UNESCO cities of literature with four Nobel prize winners: Yeats, Beckett, Shaw, and Heaney. In recent years, Dublin has also been making a name for itself as a deep tech hub, and IBM Research Europe—Dublin is at the pulse of it all.
We spoke with IBM Research Europe—Dublin Director, Dr. Ruoyi Zhou, about how it all started 10 years ago and what’s in store for the future.
You’ve been the director of the IBM Research Europe—Dublin lab for the last two years. Tell us about your first day on the job.
Being part of a team was important to me, so on my first day I sent an email to the entire staff informing them that I would set up roundtables to meet everyone. I wanted to get to know each IBMer individually and hear their concerns and suggestions on how to further improve the lab. But before meeting anyone, I asked my assistant to print a piece of paper with everyone’s name and photo on it. I made it a goal to greet each person by their first name. People were genuinely delighted.
When the day was over, I felt even more honored to be part of this incredible team.
IBM has always hand-picked specific locations for its research labs. Why Dublin?
Given its history of academic excellence in deep tech, its thriving startup scene, and the number of world-leading tech companies, Dublin is a perfect location for IBM to have a research lab. Ireland’s capital offers a rich ecosystem of forward thinkers in science and technology, not to mention a highly skilled talent pool.
The Irish government is also strongly committed to investing in the advancement of science, technology, and innovation. Earlier this year, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, announced an investment of €193 million in five Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centres over the next six years.
Originally, the lab opened in 2011 as a Smart Cities Technology Center. What was the intent 10 years ago and how did it evolve into what it is today?
The original mission combined the Smarter Cities Technology Center with additional research mandates in risk management, exascale computing, and hybrid systems. The primary focus was to research, develop and commercialize intelligent urban and environmental systems, specifically addressing challenges within and across the various domains such as Transportation, Water Management, Sustainable Energy, Urban Information Management, Risk Management, Hybrid Systems and Exascale Computing. This research played a major role in the design and development of IBM’s first Smarter Cities Solutions product line.
Our work then began to transition to cognitive IoT, as we saw opportunities to apply the deep analytics and cognitive techniques we developed for smarter cities to sensor data in operations of individual companies.
A decade later, we have flourished into a research center where scientists and engineers are pushing the frontiers of technological innovation not just in IoT, but also in AI, security and privacy, hybrid cloud and quantum computing. The lab in Dublin is now part of IBM’s global effort to shape the future of computing.
With increased investment in scientific research on the horizon, Ireland is poised to become a deep tech powerhouse. How is IBM Research Europe—Dublin contributing?
Because of our history in cognitive IoT solutions, our lab has naturally shifted its approach to encompass AI, specifically in the areas of healthcare, manufacturing 4.0 and interactive AI or human-centered AI solutions.
Beyond AI, we are contributing to the quantum computing ecosystem emerging in Ireland with the Quantum Computing in Ireland (QColr) initiative. Established in October 2020 and funded by the Irish government under the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund, QColr has seven partners, including Equal1 Labs, Rockley Photonics, Maynooth University, the Tyndall National Institute, University College Dublin, and Mastercard. Together, we will build on Qiskit, the open source software development kit founded by IBM, as we explore the potential of quantum technologies for industry applications and to grow the Irish quantum computing ecosystem.
We are also contributing through strong collaborations in government as well as in the academic and business community. Over the last decade, we’ve really put down our roots, forging partnerships with top research institutes and universities such as the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital Dublin, the Science Foundation Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University College Cork. In industry, we have worked with several corporations, most recently with the Irish branches of Mastercard and ExxonMobil, on a project to explore quantum algorithms for maritime routing formations.
What is IBM Research Europe—Dublin doing to support talent growth in Ireland?
Within the framework of our academic collaborations, we support young talent on many levels. In fact, on the day of our tenth anniversary event we will be announcing a new program that will allow students to work on research projects with our senior scientists at the lab. Through our IBM Quantum ecosystem outreach, we are teaching the next generation how to program quantum computers using Qiskit. We also make it a point to participation in local technical community meet ups, such as Women in AI.
Today, you and your staff are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Dublin lab. What are you most proud of? What’s your fondest memory of the lab?
This young lab has multiple achievements to boast with more than 630 scientific publications, over 130 granted patents, around 150 partners in academia and industry and 25 government projects, globally. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As I mentioned, we helped establish QCoIr last year, and we have been involved in numerous research projects that contribute to solving the world’s challenges.
From AI solutions for sustainable fish farming to AI-driven space planning to AI robustness, we are showing how AI can be applied for economic, social, and ecological good.
But what I am most proud of is the growth and recognition of our people—we now have 10 Master Inventors.
And I’ve also been deeply touched by how our team supported and cared for each other during the pandemic.
What will the next 5-10 years look like?
I envision IBM Research Europe—Dublin to be a well-recognized leader not just in Ireland, but also in Europe’s innovation ecosystem in areas such as AI industry applications, security and privacy of data and AI, and quantum computing. I see us playing a significant role in developing the platform for the future of computing, which we expect to accelerate discoveries in science and business.
You are cordially invited to virtually join Dr. Ruoyi Zhou and special guests in celebrating 10 years of IBM Research in Dublin. Register.