Ringing in change at Lucent Bell Labs

24 Aug 2005

A new executive director has been appointed to head up the €43m Lucent Bell Labs research and development facility in Blanchardstown after the original director, Dr Lou Manzione, stepped down to take up a new position in the US after only a year in the job.

Manzione has returned to the US to take up a position as dean of Hartford University’s College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture. Appointed as executive director of Lucent Bell Labs’s Irish operation last August on a three-year contract, Manzione brought 20 years’ experience from its central research facility at Murray Hill, New Jersey, to the role. A PhD graduate from Princeton University he is a research heavyweight with 13 patents, two books and 80 publications to his name. His speciality research areas include advanced manufacturing, antenna technology, thermal management and advanced electronics packaging and assembly.

Manzione is to be replaced by Dr Lawrence Cowsar. A PhD graduate in computational and applied mathematics from Rice University, Houston, Texas. Cowsar is responsible for the scientific computing research and computing systems research departments at Bell Labs. He has numerous publications in leading journals and is recognised for identifying and adapting research innovation to Lucent Bell Labs’ products and services.

Cowsar will also serve as co-director of the Centre for Telecommunication Value-Chain-Driven Research (CTVR), which comprises of eight universities and is headquartered in Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Lucent Bell Labs’ Blanchardstown operation is a global centre for research into telecommunications and supply chain technologies.

The lab is part of a €69m investment package announced by the Government in June last year that has also seen the creation of CTVR. The facility accounts for more than €43m of the total investment and is being jointly funded by Lucent Bell Labs and IDA Ireland, while the CTVR is being funded by Science Foundation Ireland as part of its ambitious Centre for Science Engineering and Technology programme.

The Irish operation plans to employ 40 researchers focusing on a range of supply chain management and product development technologies. Researchers there will work in partnership with nine leading Irish universities and technical institutes in achieving their goals.

It was also announced last year that Lucent Bell Labs Ireland is to spearhead a new research project involving nanotechnology. The team, whose members also includes researchers from three Irish universities — TCD, University of Limerick and the Tyndall Institute at University College Cork — as well as a number from the company’s main labs at Murray Hill, New Jersey, will use ‘nanograss’, a newly developed Lucent Bell Labs surface that contains billions of tiny silicon posts, to study the effectiveness of transferring heat from silicon surfaces to liquid coolants. It is felt the research could lead to important breakthroughs in creative cost-effective communications devices and networks.

The Blanchardstown facility is also home to a special museum showcasing some of the inventions made by Lucent Bell Labs scientists down the years. The objects on display include the world’s first fax machine dating from 1925, the Vitaphone Projector that allowed sound to be added to the movies for the first time, a replica of the first transistor from 1947, a half-scale model of Telstar, the world’s first commerical satellite launched into orbit in 1962 and, from more recent times, the first mobile base station antenna for mobile technology and the first optical router for fibre-optic communications.

Lucent Bell Labs employs nearly 600 people in Ireland out of a total of 5,000 in Europe as a whole.

By John Kennedy