The IBM Academy of Technology comprises our most accomplished technologists from around the world who work across the spectrum of IBM's technical activities. The key missions of the Academy are to investigate technical issues affecting the future of the IT industry, to affect the technical strategy of the company, and to promote communications and close working relationships across IBM's global technical community.
The Academy was founded in 1989 and now includes a bit over 300 members. It is a self-governing entity that elects both its own members and the President and the Technology Council who are charged with running the Academy. The Academy's independence gives it very broad latitude in deciding what activities to pursue and what recommendations to make to IBM's senior management. It is responsible to a Board of Governors composed of IBM senior executives. I have been a member of the Board for several years and its chairman since October 2004.
While the number of elected Academy members is relatively small, its influence is far reaching. Some thirty regional Academy affiliate-groups around the world include not only Academy members, but also other senior technical leaders as well as up-and-coming members of the technical community in each region. And, the studies, conferences and consultancies conducted by the Academy are open to all members of IBM's technical community.
The Academy's annual meetings are very intense and stimulating, as you would expect from having so much technical talent together in one place. The 2005 meeting, which just took place in San Francisco was no exception.
A major topic of discussion was the Academy's future direction, reflecting the continuing changes taking place in IBM and in the IT industry in general. Much has changed in the sixteen years since the Academy was first established. For example, in 1989 the Internet was still used primarily by the research community and bipolar-based mainframes dominated IBM's business. I gave a talk on the last day of the meeting, where I reflected on some of the major changes that require the attention of the kind of top technical talent that we have in the Academy.
In the not too recent past, most major IT innovations and thus most Academy members came from our "classic" R&D labs. We fully expect that technology advances will continue to emerge from the labs at their usual furious pace. This is evident if you just look at the Cell processor, for example, and the string of announcements around it. Those advances emerging from the labs, combined with advances in the Internet and major open standards like Service-Oriented Architectures, are enabling us to bring IT to bear on problems in business and society that would have been unimaginable just a short few years ago.
These new kinds of problems are very, very complicated, requiring the attention of the very best technical people. For the most part, these problems are found outside the labs, in the "real world", in the marketplace. Consequently, that is where the technical talent needs increasingly to be, both to help address today's problems and to gain the deep understanding needed to develop methodologies based on science and engineering, using sophisticated tools and disciplined processes. We are therefore seeing an increase in the number of Academy members who made their mark working with customers and others outside the labs, and we are seeing our R&D labs working to make it easier to address these new kinds of marketplace problems in the future. As always, the real world is a huge inspiration for innovation, especially now that we can do so much more than before in so many new areas.
Such opportunity is a challenge. Fortunately, the IBM Academy of Technology, IBM's technical conscience, is an incredible pool of knowledge and experience. It is a crucially important part of IBM's future, especially as technical talent grows increasingly important to any company that aspires to leadership in the 21st century.