IBM immerses itself in €7m water research


17 Jun 2008

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IBM has announced a €7m facility in Dublin to research water management systems. The facility will employ up to 18 fourth-level postgraduate researchers at PhD and master’s level.

Backed by IDA Ireland, the Centre of Excellence for Water Management is the second such facility created by IBM worldwide, following an earlier investment in a site in Amsterdam. Water management is seen as a critical problem in light of environmental concerns around climate change.

“This centre of excellence in Dublin will specialise in marine, coastal and fresh water research, technology development and technology innovation in the areas of water quality, water monitoring, water compliance and resource management,” said Dr. Sharon Nunes, vice-president for IBM’s Big Green Innovations division.

The €7m investment will last for three years, by which time it’s hoped some of the technologies developed at the centre can be commercialised. Nunes said any IP deriving from work at the centre would be registered at the point of origin. The water management centre was located in Dublin because “that is where there is local expertise,” she told <i>siliconrepublic.com</i>.

One of the centre’s first projects involves a collaboration with the Marine Institute on its national research SmartBay project, which is currently under development at Galway Bay. This project uses sub-sea sensors to gather data on the aquatic environment, which can then be fed into real-time modelling systems. This will allow the Marine Institute to make predictions on flooding events or navigation hazards.

The first phase of the project, which is scheduled to be ready by the autumn, will concentrate on moving from manual to automatic data gathering and on creating a portal and visualisation platform for researchers. Further phases will see this data made available to various stakeholders, including Government, the fisheries sector and the public.

The Dublin facility also intends to collaborate with Irish SMEs, government agencies and key universities including DCU, UCD and the Tyndall Institute to improve water quality and water system performance.

The news marks a further shift away from attracting large-scale manufacturing centres into Ireland. Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan TD, said the announcement was in line with the IDA’s strategy of winning high-value, knowledge-based R&D investments from leading technology firms. Michael Daly, country general manager for IBM in Ireland, said the company had been moving towards more research functions at its operations here. “We’ve now grown to over 500 people in R&D activities, primarily in development in the software area.”

By Gordon Smith