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IBM University: Open Collaborative Research
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Open Collaborative Research (OCR)

Launched in 2006, the IBM Open Collaboration Research (OCR) awards program provides a new model for partnerships between universities and IBM to study significantly challenging research topics impacting the 21st century.

IBM OCR awards program

IBM OCR awards program

The origin of IBM's OCR awards program was a University-Industry Innovation Summit in December 2005, attended by leaders from IT companies, universities and government agencies. The outcome of the event was a set of Open Collaboration Principles, which is the foundation for IBM's program.

Purpose and goals

The OCR awards program supports strategically important, highly collaborative research projects between IBM and leading universities across a wide range of areas within Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics and other disciplines where open collaboration would accelerate innovation and benefit the world at large and IBM.

The program promotes the development of open source software, related industry standards and greater interoperability. The OCR awards program enables multiyear deep collaboration between IBM and university participants and allows faculty to take on new students and obligations. Outcomes of collaborations are open — meaning that results are freely available, and publicly shared — which provides maximum opportunity for others to build on the results.

The goals of the OCR are to:

  • Study highly complex topics that require significant research collaboration
  • Enable IBM and university participants to forge deep relationships through multi-year collaborations
  • Provide collaboration results freely to the public through open source and open standards communities


The awards are intended for faculty at leading universities worldwide, who will have access to IBM research personnel and/or receive cash donations (average of $100,000 USD per year) for 2 years.

Projects must be nominated by an IBM employee with common interests who will serve as a collaborator with the university faculty. IBM personnel must submit a project summary that includes a description of the project's goals and scope; a discussion of the expected outcomes and merits of the proposed work; and information about why open collaboration is needed.

If you are interested in pursuing a nomination for an OCR Award, we recommend that you speak with your IBM contacts in IBM Research.

If you have questions, refer to our FAQ (49KB) or contact IBM technical employees you already know through your professional organizations and activities.

Collaborative Research Initiatives

Collaborative Research Initiatives

IBM has a long-running tradition of research collaboration with our colleagues in academia. The goal of IBM's Collaborative Research Initiatives is to continue strong partnerships with the university ecosystem and ensure open innovation as a means to respond to our changing world.

Open innovation through collaboration

Our planet is facing great challenges in the coming decades. Issues such as global climate changes and higher density in urban areas create a need for smarter solutions to our water management systems, infrastructure, energy sources, healthcare systems, and many other areas. In order to adapt to the changes and also ensure a sustainable future, industry, government and academia must collaborate openly to expedite innovative solutions.

With the Open Collaboration Research Program (OCR), IBM seeks to address these trends, by diminishing barriers and reducing complexities caused by the implications of intellectual property ownership. The program promotes open collaboration research projects, with a purpose to accelerate innovation to benefit the world at large and IBM. Outcomes of collaborations are open — meaning that results are freely available, and publicly shared — which provides maximum opportunity for others to build on the results.

Explore and learn

We invite you to explore this site and learn more about our OCR awards program and other collaborative research initiatives. You will also be able to find a list of all our research projects, read the project stories and discover relevant and helpful information.

We want to share what we have learned, so that we can quickly begin to work together to study the significantly challenging problems facing our planet and create smarter solutions that deliver real impact to the world.



To accommodate the multitude of stakeholders that collaborate to ensure an innovative and sustainable future, we have developed a broader understanding of the spectrum of collaboration models and principles.

Spectrum of collaboration models

We believe research relationships span across a spectrum of models. On one side there are philanthropic gifts, such as fellowship awards for students and research awards for faculty and students. If you move along the spectrum, there is open research models where the results are fee-free, community-prepared, and publicly shared. The middle of the spectrum contains research models where results can be free for the participants to use and commercialize. The other side of the spectrum has sponsored private research where proprietary research is performed and the results are owned by the sponsoring enterprise. There are many more types of research collaborations making up the spectrum that allow for multiple research models and entry points to discuss the type of research being performed and expected results.

With universities and industry collaborating on a global basis, we must continue to create solutions that enable a quicker approach to research partnerships. We are addressing this by breaking down the complexity and building point solutions across the spectrum. By proactively agreeing on standard principles for a specific type of collaboration in the research spectrum, we can shorten the time it takes to move from concept of an idea to its development. We've found that success comes when early conversations include discussion around goals of the collaboration and the researchers.

Learn more

For more information, listen to the podcasts, read the transcript or the principles.